Defining Healthcare IT

Healthcare IT (HIT) simply put is the design and management of IT platforms and systems to enable management of the delivery of care, clinical informatics and bioinformatics. Academically, HIT is always differentiated from Health / Medical Informatics, and defined as;

Health IT (HIT) is the application of information processing involving both computer hardware and software that deals with the storage, retrieval, sharing, and use of health care information, data, and knowledge for communication and decision making (Goldschmidt, 2005).

Health informatics is the field that concerns itself with the cognitive, information processing, and communication tasks of medical practice, education, and research including the information science and technology to support those tasks. It deals with the resources, devices, and methods required to optimize acquisition, storage, and retrieval. (Conrick, 2006)

In reality though there is so much overlap, one doesn’t provision systems and solutions without mastering both the physical infrastructure and the abstraction of data to model what Clinicians need in the delivery of care. The best way to think of it is Formula 1, the strategy, engineering and management teams do everything needed to win the race except drive the car – and that is a great metaphor for what we do in HIT. The Clinician is like the driver, who uses our technology, depends on our support to do what they do best, race around that track.

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There is a common misconception that Healthcare IT is a very complex and specialized domain that is very alien to normal IT, but in reality its about 80% IT, and only 20% is very specific to healthcare.

This conclusion of mine was recently confirmed in the New England Journal of Medicine June 14, 2012 in an article titled “Escaping the EHR Trap – The Future of Healthcare IT” by Dr Kenneth D. Mandl. As Dr Mandl puts it, “Only a small subset of loosely coupled Information Technologies need to be highly specific to healthcare. Many components can be generic”

The end game of HIT is to leverage technology to enable Clinical, Financial and Operational Decision Support while enabling new platforms for collaboration between clinicians, care delivery organizations and patients.
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HIT Manifesto 20130319

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