2/9/11 - Defining Healthcare IT

While there's a very long, winding definition of "Healthcare IT" by the government at, which I think is not helpful, there's no succinct definition that I've seen for the public on what healthcare IT is, and what it isn't.

I'm reminded of the evolution of the phrases "IT" and "Information Technology" in the late 90's, when the terms went from something abstract to specific in a very short amount of time.  "IT" became synonymous with all of the skills needed for technology-driven companies to succeed.  It included testing, software development, web development, architecture, database design, technical writing, project management, hardware engineers, and software engineers just to name a few.  I witnessed this all happen first hand but I don't really remember how it all came together.

Maybe it was just the everpresent impact of IT.  Maybe it was so many people entering the field of IT.  Maybe it was Super Bowl commercials and Y2K.  Whatever it was, the term entered the sphere of public awareness -- even my retired mother knew what it was in some fashion -- and it continues still.

I'm not so sure there's any common understanding of "Healthcare IT" or "Health IT" though.  It gets lobbed around all the time and I do a lot of the lobbing myself.  It's so everpresent and generally important but specifically vague, that it's easy to ignore, for all of us.  It's like a politician talking about the GDP.

Still, you would have an easier time finding people to tell you what Healthcare IT or Health IT  isn't, as opposed to what it  is.  For example, is it the use of technology in hospitals?  And while we're at it, what's the difference between the clinical and technical when it comes to Healthcare IT?  Is it the innovation a software company brings to healthcare far and near?  Is it the old school programmer in a windowless office, keeping a legacy McKesson system that can't be turned off "talking" to a new Cerner system?

In an effort and hope to stimulate conversation on this topic, I'll offer my own definition below, which as you'll see relies on improvement as the center of the wheel:

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

Tomorrow I will offer an explanation on this, including a broader definition of what improvement means, and who a provider is. 

Please post comments or write me back at  [email protected]  with your opinions.

Posted by Jack Williams at 15:55


    Post a comment