Over the past few years, the healthcare sector has been under a tremendous transformation due to the uptake of technology. Different technological systems have been integrated with the health systems to aid the sector. One of these technologies has been the Electronic Health Records. Different health institutions have been slow in integrating these systems with their institutions for several reasons. Hence, the electronic health records do not meet the mobility needs of physicians in these health institutions. Most physicians want to use love using their smartphones or tablets at work. Current electronic health records systems have been slow to adopt mobile devices into their systems. A survey by Black Book shows that most physicians would want to access information of their patients on their phones, but find that most vendors do not offer this option. Another reason why medical institutions have been slow to take on electronic health records has been the requirement to share information from the system with other healthcare providers. When it comes to using the system, some core functionalities that are all attributed to sharing of information are hardly used. Some of these functionalities include e-prescribing, electrical communication with other health institutions, and electronic communication to aid remote consultations and diagnosis. The last reason why healthcare institutions are slow to take on electronic medical records is that these systems are difficult to implement. A study by Becker’s Hospital Review outlined the most common mistakes made during the implementation of electronic health records. These mistakes include not having the right staff to operate the system, using workarounds in the system, failing to analyze the workflow of the institution before the implementation process, and entering too much data. For these reasons, different institutions have hesitated to implement the HER systems.
The Health Insurance Portability Accountability Act is a law that was implemented to reduce the potential for misuse of personal information and put restrictions on the access to medical records by insurers, health researchers, and employees (O’Herrin, Fost, & Kudsk, 2004). The HIPAA has proved to be a powerful tool by providing patients with the right to access their medical records. Years after the implementation of the Health Insurance Portability Accountability Act, the right to access personal health information for patients has become a critical component in the reinvention of the healthcare delivery system. As a result, patients have become stakeholders in the delivery and management of their health by medical institutions. Additionally, the HIPAA has improved the ability of patients to access healthcare by ensuring that patients are offered security and privacy. According to the HIPAA, each patient has the right to view or get a copy of their health information, make any request to correct previously wrong information, be notified about how their health information is being used and to whom it is being shared, see where and how each patient would want to be contacted by their physician, and file any complaints if any of these rights have been violated by the health provider. As a result, this law has empowered patients when it comes to the provision of their healthcare. To the patient, the regulation means that any violations of the regulation are penalized. In circumstances when the patient’s health information is viewed by any other person who does not have the privilege to view this information, health providers are required by the federal law to notify the patient of this breach of contract. This ensures that health providers are accountable for their actions; hence, they protect information of their patients with all the tools at their disposal.
The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act is a law that was passed in 2009 as a part of a package developed by the government to ensure that there is a widespread interaction of health providers with Electronic Health Records (EHRs) (Manachemi & Collum, 2011). The implementation of the HITECH Act has several advantages and disadvantages for health organizations. The first advantage is that the EHRs are mostly focused on quality service delivery and safety of the patient. By implementing the HITECH Act, clinical outcomes of these institutions have improved tremendously. Another advantage of implementing the HITECH Act is that organizational outcomes have been improved by the EHRs. These systems promote efficiency in different areas of health organizations. Efficiency means that the health organization saves revenues, hence improving organizational outcomes. The last advantage of implementing the HITECH Act is that by implementing the EHRs, health institutions have empowered their researchers. The EHRs store all the information regarding different customers, which means that the data can be available on demand. Aside from the advantages, implementation of the HITECH Act has several disadvantages. The first disadvantage is related to costs as the implementation of the Act is costly. The EHRs are expensive to purchase, implement, and maintain. They require that the health organization trains their staff to use the system and in extreme cases even employ professionals for the advanced EHRs. Another disadvantage of implementing the HITECH Act is that by integration of the EHRs in the organization the workflow of the institution is affected. The last disadvantage of this law is that it presents the platform for a patient’s rights to be violated through access of their health information. Since data are collected and stored centrally in the EHRs, there is the risk of patient rights violations. Despite these drawbacks caused by the implementation of the Act, the health institution can mitigate the drawbacks to reduce their effects on the institution. One of the drawbacks that the medical staff can overcome before the implementation of the HITECH law is the one related to workflows. The medical staff should put more effort in learning the new system to avoid workflow issues. Additionally, before the implementation of the EHRs the workflow should be studied so that during the implementation the health organization can know the best way of the system implementation, which would result in minimal disturbance of workflow processes in the institution.
A workflow is a group of related tasks that are done in chronological order. In a healthcare setting, workflow can be defined by tasks to be performed, people and resources needed to perform them, and interactions between them. Workflows are one of the pressing concerns in the healthcare sector, especially due to the integration of technology in the health sector. Health IT promises to improve quality and efficiency of services, but its implementation can be disruptive to the workflow processes of the institution. One of the areas how efficiency can be improved is administration of anesthesia before and during surgeries. While administering anesthesia, several steps are followed by health practitioners. During this task performance, a lot of time is lost while waiting for one step to get completed so that the other step can be followed. This reduces efficiency of anesthesia administration. If the health organization removed the need to follow these steps in a series and instead developed a workflow where steps relating to anesthesia were conducted simultaneously, a lot of time could be saved, thus improving efficiency of anesthesia during surgery. The time taken to conduct the surgeries would improve significantly.
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Different initiatives developed by the government affect standards of healthcare information for patient privacy, safety, and confidentiality. Adoption of the HITECH law by the government requires that different health institutions start integrating the EHRs within their systems. This integration means that there is effective delivery of services by health institutions to patients. As a result, safety of the patient is ensured. The government has also passed the HIPAA act that provides patients with the right to access their health information, be notified about how their health information is being used and to whom it is being shared, and file any complaints if any of these rights have been violated by the health provider. All the above rights ensure privacy of the patients’ health information. According to Kolodner (2007), the patient is empowered by this Act to sue any health institution or medical staff that violates his/her rights. The government has also contracted the Foundation of Research and Education (FORE) of the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) to collect data from different Health Information Exchanges at the state level. The data collected should be analyzed and used to define the best practices, including those related to privacy and security practices. The best practices in security and practices will then be applied to the health sector. Since the majority of privacy and security issues are a result of implementing different EHRs and other IT systems in the health institution, the government has established the American Health Information Community (AHIC), which is a committee that advises the government and makes recommendations about different Information Technology strategies. This group deals with privacy and security issues. It conducts workshops to discuss national-wide issues that affect privacy and safety of different individuals concerning health.
Applying IT systems is advantageous to healthcare organizations for several reasons. The first reason is that automation of different hospital processes leads to improved quality of healthcare. IT systems improve the quality of healthcare by ensuring efficiency in the workplace. Additionally, an IT system ensures uniformity in the data that are stored in the health institution. These data are stored for future use such as when required by a patient at a later date or when conducting research. The data can also be shared with other medical practitioners who need it on request by the patient. Uniformity of data also ensures that a patient’s treatment is done effectively. The last advantage offered by IT systems in the medical field is that IT systems decrease the expenditure of the health organization where they are used. Not having to use paper in the organization can lead to huge savings in the organization. IT development in the next two decades in the healthcare sector is bound to change tremendously. The first of these developments is connected with medical devices. Various devices such as insulin pumps and pacemakers are developed that will be able to pick up signals and transmit data. The data will be used to monitor the health of the patient in real time. As a result, patients can take proactive measures to check their health. Another technology that will likely be developed is mobile health records. Currently, most EHRs host their data on physical servers with only the few using cloud-based systems. These forms of IT will get improved and upgraded to Web-based and cloud-based systems. The last important technology will be a massive reproduction of 3D printing machines. The technology will be used by various medical institutions to provide prosthetic organs for patients that require them.