When most businesses miss an important takeaway in their data, it usually just results in missed revenue. But when a healthcare company misses something important, real people suffer. That’s what makes the emergence of healthcare informatics so important. Today’s healthcare ecosystem is a complicated one and with the majority of patient data moving digital, it presents a huge benefit for healthcare companies to work together and heighten the bar for patient care quality and safety.
By now you’re probably wondering what healthcare informatics is, exactly. Let’s look at that, and four important benefits its bringing to the healthcare industry, below.
What Is Healthcare Informatics?
According to the CDC, a good way to think about healthcare informatics is “the how and why, behind health IT. Where IT is concerned with the “nuts and bolts” that make healthcare data possible, healthcare informatics is concerned with improving real-life outcomes through good decisions based on quality, timely data. Because of this, healthcare informatics touches every stage of the datacycle: collection, storage, analyzation and presentation.
How Healthcare Informatics Improves Patient Care
The goal in healthcare has always been to improve patient care, but the advent of technology offers unprecedented opportunities for the complex network of healthcare providers to leverage large volumes of information to increase collaboration, limit mistakes, reduce costs, better treat specific health populations and promote better patient self-care.
Increased Collaboration Among Healthcare Providers
As more patient records were stored electronically, the harder it became for healthcare providers to share quality information and collaborate. Healthcare informatics allow healthcare providers to build on the data that’s already been collected. The more expansive a patient’s medical history is, the more healthcare informatics can inform a new healthcare provider how the patient has responded to various treatments and procedures in the past, instead of asking the patient to fill in the gaps.
Fewer Mistakes & Lower Costs Leads to Better Patient Experience
Healthcare is complex, and like any complex system, redundancies and inefficiencies surely linger. Except this isn’t some business we don’t care about squandering money, it’s our healthcare system and it drives up costs for many.
According to Brookings, The U.S. spends nearly 18 percent of GDP on healthcare, which is more than any other country—yet, health outcomes do not reflect this expenditure. One reason for this is redundant medical care, which the Congressional Budget Office estimates costs $700 billion per year. With healthcare informatics providing a clearer view of not only the various treatments in a patient’s medical history, but how those treatments have played out, future patient care strategies become more targeted and effective.
Certain sicknesses and illnesses are more prevalent in some regions than others. Healthcare informatics uses data to identify trends and patterns in a particular region or population with treatments and outcomes to find the most effective treatment paths. The implementation of AI into healthcare analytics, while still a few years from widespread adoption, opens the door further for public health professionals dealing with large populations as these tools allow large volumes of data to be searched in common language and accessed for all to see. Population health offers the biggest world-changing potential of any benefit on this list.
Promotion of Healthcare Adherence
Going to the doctor when we’re ill is important, as is taking our vehicle to the mechanic when something’s malfunctioning. But visiting the doctor (or mechanic) routinely is expensive and isn’t always completely necessary, particularly if there’s a breakdown in the patient following the doctor’s orders. Healthcare informatics help educate patients to take care of themselves, which results in fewer doctor’s visits, better health and overall reduced costs for both sides. One 2016 study found that tailored health communications were able to uniquely construct health information to chronic patients which prevented too much information from causing confusion and improper decisions.
Why Organizations Are Slow to Adopt
While these benefits make implementing healthcare informatics on a wide level seem like a no-brainer, healthcare is never quick to adopt much of anything. Of course, this isn’t because the industry is lazy, incompetent, or unreasonably conservative to make timely decisions. One reason is because of the detail-intensive workload clinicians face. Identifying areas for improvement is one thing, but implementing those fixes isn’t a plug and play deal; daily patient care demands make reshuffling the entire process impossible. Change needs to happen gradually. The other reason, highlighted at the start of this article, when a business makes a big mistake or misses something, money is lost — maybe time is wasted. But when healthcare makes a big mistake, people can die.