It’s not very uncommon that one gets to hear of the impact of health information technology on health administration and how it has revolutionized patient care on a global scale. A curious mind raises questions like- what exactly does Health Information Technology mean? And how does India fare in HIT vis-à-vis the rest of the world? This article makes a modest attempt to address some of these questions.

In very simple terms, Health information technology (HIT) is another way to describe the comprehensive management of health information across computerized systems and the secure exchange of health information among patients, practitioners, government, quality entities, and insurers.

In addition to providing a higher quality of care, healthcare software saves time and money. By using HIT, the time and effort spent managing daily operations and administrative tasks can be reduced, allowing healthcare organizations to focus more on patient treatment and health. Faster prescriptions, information sharing, reduced paperwork, and better follow-up are just a few examples of how healthcare information systems are helping facilities to become more productive and efficient.

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Big Data will leave no sector untouched as it continues to change the way we think about everything from sales to human resources, and medicine and healthcare are no different.

For years, the basis of most medical research and discovery has been the collection and analysis of data: who gets sick, how they get sick and why.

But now, with sensors in every Smartphone and doctors able to share information across disciplines, the quantity and quality of the data available is greater than ever before, which means that the potential for breakthroughs and change is growing just as exponentially.

 

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Providers are seeking new ways to harness growing patient enthusiasm for the "quantified self" movement, driven by the availability and potential of healthcare Internet of Things devices.

As part of the "information generation" our technology-driven world is dramatically changing our lives, impacting our personal interactions, business transactions, and the way we consume information. We're always connected, using more types of devices, accessing data anywhere, anytime. When it comes to caring for ourselves and others, this digital transformation is driving us to act as both patients and consumers of healthcare information.

Smart technologies, like wearable devices and smart home devices that comprise the Internet of Things, are driving the "quantified self movement," arming us, as consumers, with personalized data to make more informed decisions about our lifestyles. In this "always on" world, our expectations for healthcare are also shifting from a focus on a single patient care episode to an overall patient lifecycle. In the current accountable care environment, where electronic health record documentation is being prioritized, this new realm of patient generated data can build on a caregiver's clinical expertise and augment hospital protocols.

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"Patient centricity" has become the key trend in healthcare provisioning and is leading to the steady growth in adoption of electronic medical records (EMR), electronic health records (EHR), personal health records (PHR), and technologies related to integrated care, patient safety, point-of-care access to demographic and clinical information, and clinical decision support. Availability of data, irrespective of the location of the patient and the clinician, has become the key to both patient satisfaction and improved clinical outcomes. Cloud technologies can significantly facilitate this trend.

Cloud computing offers significant benefits to the healthcare sector: doctor's clinics, hospitals, and health clinics require quick access to computing and large storage facilities which are not provided in the traditional settings. Moreover, healthcare data needs to be shared across various settings and geographies which further burden the healthcare provider and the patient causing significant delay in treatment and loss of time. Cloud caters to all these requirements thus providing the healthcare organizations an incredible opportunity to improve services to their customers, the patients, to share information more easily than ever before, and improve operational efficiency at the same time.

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The connected era has given anybody with a device that has access to the internet more information than most people are capable to use. These opportunities, which are such a vital part of contemporary life, also offer extraordinary, intimate and almost infinite personal information.

Those omnipresent membership cards and key tags for the local shop, fitbit tracking your physical action, and the app that lets you know about the shoe sale in the store as you are walking past are all part of the huge initiative of collecting, examining, and understanding dissimilar bits of information that decrease under the umbrella of "big data".

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5 things We should know about India’s healthcare system.

1. Rural Versus Urban Divide

While the opportunity to enter the market is very ripe, India still spends only around 4.2% of its national GDP towards healthcare goods and services (compared to 18% by the US). Additionally, there are wide gaps between the rural and urban populations in its healthcare system which worsen the problem. A staggering 70% of the population still lives in rural areas and has no or limited access to hospitals and clinics. Consequently, the rural population mostly relies on alternative medicine and government programmes in rural health clinics. One such government programme is the National Urban Health Mission which pays individuals for healthcare premiums, in partnership with various local private partners, which have proven ineffective to date.

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The generations who were born before 80’s retain a nostalgic memory of their childhood illness. There was this friendly neighborhood doctor- elderly, respectable, kind, soft-spoken, witty, smart. One can walk to his clinic round the corner, to join a long line of people. The parents would patiently wait for their turn, chatting with neighbors about symptoms and schools, and observed a busy 'compounder' who dispensed medicine bottles of dark colored bitter medicine according to doctor's note. As a child, you were terrified to go in to get injection. You often did not notice actual injection, as the pain is drowned in your cry of fear and doctor’s witty remarks. You would suddenly start feeling great as you come out and pick up your bitter dark medicine. Overall, most of the time, one got better and cured after the doctor visit. The fee– paid in cash to the doctor- was a comfortably small fraction of one’s salary. Our vocabulary of ‘treatment’- (there was no such a word as- 'healthcare') is about 10 words, and involved less than 5 people- doctor, patient, compounder, nurse, dispensary, hospital, operation, medicine, illness, wellness.

 

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Data is hot right now. We generate tons of it, but most of it sits there, latent, unused and useless. This is particularly pronounced when it comes to health and fitness data, where we strap on our fitness trackers and expect the pounds to melt away with each step passively logged.

But we haven't seen a dramatic improvement in our nation’s health with the emergence of the "quantified self movement" and the pervasiveness of wearables. We still live in a country where two-thirds of us are overweight or obese and 80 percent of adults do not get the recommended amount of exercise.

We forget that data alone is not the key to solving America’s health crisis. Knowing our step count or flights of stairs climbed won’t change our behavior. However, data with context - data that is proactive, timely and actionable - gives us the opportunity to design our environments for success and can help enable us to reach our health goals.

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We all recognize that digital technologies are firmly embedded in our lives – the Internet of Things is becoming a reality, growing from 15 billion smart devices in 2015 to at least 50 billion by 2020. It is easier than ever before to connect data-generating appliances, machines and even complete industries to the internet. As a result, we are also creating vast amounts of data, faster and more detailed than ever before – 90% of all data in the world today has been created in the last two years alone.

This big data revolution has led to the emergence of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which is about combining connected devices with cloud computing, big data analytics and artificial intelligence - our critical infrastructures will become smart.

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As compared to a global average of 2–2.5 percent of income spent on IT by healthcare providers, or even 6-15 percent being invested in IT in other sectors within India, anecdotal data from multiple sources indicate that healthcare providers in India rarely spend more than 0.5 percent of their annual revenue on information technology. Rather than investing in the necessary or customized (and consequently more expensive) software solutions that best suits the needs of the hospital, the oft-used strategy is to find cheaper available solutions or adopt those that have been created for smaller setups.

Instead of capitalizing on the immense potential of IT as a competitive differentiator (especially at a time when they could have a substantial first-mover advantage), hospitals in India seem to embrace the “cheap is good, free is better” philosophy. May be it has to do with a legacy mindset from about 20 years ago; however, it is indeed surprising considering the big and aspirational strides that many industries in India have taken.

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