Health Information Technology in the United States

Introduction

The current rate of technological development has led to an increase in the number of people accessing the internet today. This has resulted in significant improvements in service delivery. The efficiency generated by technological advancements has a great impact on economic growth and service delivery in the United States of America. The health sector has benefited a lot from technological developments (Revels, 2012). Patient care has improved after health care providers integrated information and communication technology in their work. The integration entails the inclusive organization of health care data using health information technology. Health information technology refers to an electronically powered environment that supports the practice of collecting, organizing, processing, and sharing health information among different users. An electronic-powered communication environment is characterized by the use of technological gadgets such as tablets, computers, and phones to share health information via the internet (Revels, 2012). The aim of creating and developing this phenomenon was to ameliorate patient experience through reduced therapeutic errors, a condensed layout for receiving health care, reduced paperwork, as well as enhanced health care affordability and administration of patients (Davis, 2007). One of the major precautions taken in applying health information technology is the need to maintain the privacy of patient information. Health information is transferred electronically to different users that include patients, health care providers, insurers, the government, and quality assurance agencies. Health information technology is the best strategy for improving the quality, safety, and overall efficiency of the health care system in the United States (Davis, 2007).

Discussion

The United States federal government applies numerous strategies to improve the effectiveness of health information technology in the health care system. In 2004, the federal government launched a ten-year plan, which required all health care facilities to develop electronic systems for the effective management of health information (McCarthy, 2012). Since launching the plan, the government has issued grants estimated at $ 20 billion to health care facilities. The grants aim to help health care facilities shift from traditional health records management systems to electronic records management systems. The grants are issued through a provision in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which President Barrack Obama signed into law in 2009 (McCarthy, 2012). As an incentive to encourage speedy and effective transition by health care facilities, the government offered to increase the amount of money received by hospitals for the Medicare and Medicaid programs. Facilities that will change their systems successfully by 2015 ought to receive more funds from the program (McCarthy, 2012). This plan has led to the development of policy legislation in the United States to facilitate its implementation. One of the policies that were developed and that is currently used in the United States health care system is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). The act was enacted in 1996 by the Congress. The Act contains numerous provisions that deal with health care coverage for all American workers and their beneficiaries whenever they lose or change jobs (McCarthy, 2012).

The act also addresses the need to create standards for transactions involving health information technology. Health care providers ought to have up-to-date health records, and ensure that they maintain the confidentiality of patient information shared through electronic broadcast. HIPAA requires all health care providers to create awareness among patients regarding various rights accorded to them (McCarthy, 2012). The act is clear on the privacy of patient information: all patients between the ages of 12-18 have a right to medical privacy. Health care providers should share medical information only if the patients agree. This regulation accords full custody of medical information to patients and the psychiatrists who treat them. The act further requires all health care providers to devise effective and reliable policies for handling diverse patient requests. Health care providers need to develop an alert system that will inform all entities about any changes made to medical records (McCarthy, 2012). This will help to improve the efficiency and reliability of the electronic transmission of health information.

As part of ensuring the full confidentiality of patient information, the act requires all health care providers to hire a privacy officer to enforce privacy policies (McCarthy, 2012). The role of a privacy officer is to provide guidance to health care providers on effective ways of adapting and implementing HIPAA. In addition, the privacy officer has the mandate to initiate an inventory of health information within a facility, as well as to ensure that all practitioners participate in government training on the implementation of HIPAA (McCarthy, 2012). Unlike the traditional methods of transmitting patient information that are slow and that necessitate the incorporation of numerous strategies, electronic transmission of patient information is prompt, well placed, and affordable. Electronic transmission of health information is very effective and reliable because people can access information and transfer it from mobile communication gadgets such as laptops, cell phones, and tablets. Health information technology has helped a lot in improving patient experiences in health care facilities (Davis, 2007). The services are quicker and more reliable because of increased awareness about the management of healthcare information, as well as advancements in research about patient information. Availability of health information on various online databases has helped to educate patients about their conditions and the quality of health care services. This makes it easy for health care service providers to deal with patients because they have basic knowledge about their rights and various medical needs (Davis, 2007).

Social networking sites also constitute part of the tools used in the electronic transmission of patient information. People use social sites like Skype, Facebook, Twitter, and other online services like emails to communicate and share information. Social media has helped to increase transparency and accountability among various health care service providers because people are always eager to receive updates on various issues (Revels, 2012). This means that these providers cannot use patient information for individual gains without public knowledge. Social media provides a very engaging platform for patients to interact with various service providers. Electronic transmission of patient information encourages constant communication and interaction, which helps to improve the quality of health care services because there is greater understanding between involved parties (Revels, 2012). However, despite all the benefits associated with the electronic transmission of patient information, the system has disadvantages that can reduce its effectiveness. Critics of the electronic transmission of patient information argue that the system does not guarantee the safety of users (Revels, 2012).

One of the challenges associated with the use of technology in communication is the issue of insecurity. This is commonly known as cyberbullying (McCarthy, 2012). Cyberspace has provided criminals with a new avenue to commit crimes by targeting the growing number of people that access the internet every day. The criminals execute their plans by winning the trust of unsuspecting internet users, who end up revealing vital personal information. Another disadvantage associated with this system is the complex style of communication (Davis, 2007). Unlike the traditional methods where communication is a one-time thing, electronic communication requires users to check their profiles regularly for new messages and pending responses. Users of electronic systems also complain of an emerging trend among various content providers that have resulted in inconsistent posting of content in various databases and information overload. A culture of vagueness is also common with the use of this system, especially when social networking sites are involved (McCarthy, 2012). This culture often leads to distortion of information shared among users, thus lowering the credibility and reliability of the system.

Conclusion

Technological developments have created numerous opportunities for improvement of health care services delivery. Health care information technology has achieved its objective of improving patient experiences and increasing the effectiveness of health record management. Good communication and management of information are very important in the provision of health care services. Health information is transferred electronically to different users that include patients, health care providers, insurers, the government, and quality assurance agencies. Various health care service providers need to respect the right to privacy according to patients, by avoiding the temptation of sharing medical information without their consent. Health information technology is the best strategy for improving the quality, safety, and overall efficiency of the health care system in the United States of America.

References

Davis, N. (2007). Health Information Technology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

McCarthy, C. (2012). Innovation with Information Technologies in Health Care. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons.

Revels, M. (2012). Introduction to Health Care Information Technology. New York: Cengage Learning.