Healthcare News & Insights

Why patient-centered health IT is crucial for hospitals


Hospitals and healthcare systems need to take greater strides toward making health IT more patient-centered, according to a government agency.

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) recently issued a brief about the importance of engaging patients in their own health care through the use of IT.

Much has been made about the use of IT by clinical staff. But because health care itself is shifting toward a more patient-centered experience, technology used in hospitals needs to reflect that reality.

3 health IT goals

Ideally, health IT should make patients partners in their treatment where they can play more of an active role in their care. According to the ONC, health care organizations need to work toward three goals to accomplish this with health IT:

  1. Increased self-management and prevention
  2. Seamless interaction with the healthcare system
  3. Shared management of health care

Hospitals are tasked with implementing technology that meets this end. Health IT should allow providers to easily collect and store patients’ health info in a way that gives patients better access to this data in multiple healthcare settings.

What tech to try

Certain federal initiatives, such as the meaningful use program for electronic health records (EHR) systems, have helped push the healthcare industry in this direction.

Other initiatives also have the potential to create a more patient-centered experience in hospitals, including allowing patients to use tablet computers to enter in and view info about their health. Many hospitals have implemented this technology for patients to much success.

An article in the Wall Street Journal describes the system in place by New York-Presbyterian Hospital where patients are using tablet computers in place of traditional call buttons to summon nurses. They also can view their health records with the devices, along with info to help them manage their illnesses.  And they can even use the tablets to surf the Web and Skype with family members.

Additionally, one hospital in Ohio has been using tablets to give patients a more active role in their care, as described in an article in the Columbus Dispatch. Patients at Wexner Medical Center are able to view info from their EHRs about their conditions, medications and treatment with the tablets. And they’re also able to use them to communicate with clinical staff.

Research even backs up the benefits use of tablets in healthcare settings. A recent study of cancer patients out of the University of Virginia demonstrates how the use of tablets can contribute to patient engagement. The patients used tablets to answer questions about their symptoms so doctors would be able to effectively treat them.

Almost all patients reported the questions were easy to answer. And despite an initial learning curve with some patients, the majority of them were able to use them to record detailed health info for their providers.

Looking ahead

Putting such technology in patients’ hands is the key to adapting to the future of patient-centered health care, according to the ONC. It makes for easier collection of health data and empowers patients to keep themselves healthy.

So even if your staffers tend to prefer more traditional ways of communicating with patients, your hospital needs to get on this bandwagon ASAP.

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