2/10/12 - Explaining Healthcare IT

In my 2/9/12 blog, I offered up the following definition of "Healthcare IT":

"Healthcare IT" refers to information technology and the related expertise needed to improve healthcare - for patients, from providers, through products and services.

Now, I'll try to explain why I believe in this definition.

  • Improving Healthcare - Technology is a gimmick unless it improves something, so a discussion on healthcare IT ought to be anchored in the need to improve healthcare through technology.  Let's not put those two words together if they're not there to help.  In fact, in healthcare the fundamental purpose of technology is (or should be) to accelerate improvement.  For example, technology that improves the accuracy of clinical test results is far more important than technology that improves the speed of the test itself, however helpful that might be.  Besides, technical improvements always cause some sort of acceleration - the rotary phone ultimately invented the wireless phone.
  • Expertise.  Technology is what binds people together with process, and healthcare therefore requires people, process, and technology.  The expertise to assess, interpret, and use the results of technology in a healthcare environment is what creates such significant opportunity now for the iPad, yet the clinician and the technologist still need the other's expertise to create significant change.
  • Providers.  Healthcare is provided by trained, educated clinicians.  Technology is provided by trained, educated innovators.  When healthcare and technology are combined, what is ultimately provided is better, more informed, more effective, and more reliable care.  This does not mean that we need 14 million ICD-10 codes and it does not mean that we need a Twitter feed from the operating room.  It is emphatically not blind adherence to a software system's recommendations.  But the concept of serving as a provider becomes more meaningful when we consider how technology advances healthcare.

So what is Healthcare IT?  It's a set of skills.  It's an array of incredible technical innovation.  It's a commitment to improving one thing (healthcare) with another complementary thing (technology).  It's a host of things - a field, an interest, a vocation, a discipline - that defies simple explanation or easy definition.  It's the phrase that just returned over 68 million results in the Google search field.

Got an opinion, rebuttal, or gripe?  Please post comments or write me back at[email protected] with your opinions.

Posted by Jack Williams at 11:25


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