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Healthcare Information Systems: A Rundown

Record-keeping may not be exciting, but it saves lives in hospitals, makes it possible for breakthroughs to be recorded and built on by future generations of researchers, and keeps America’s complex web of agencies, science facilities, and medical institutions in touch.

Healthcare and Hospital Information Systems (HIS) have come a long way since the 1990s, when filing cabinets were still the typical method of storing healthcare information. Before computers became an integral part of the workplace, no single, unified systems were in place for healthcare information management. Hospitals had their own information management systems in place, with record-keeping practices varying widely from hospital to hospital and from state to state. Archives were stored on paper, then transferred to microfiche.

The Evolution of Healthcare Information Systems

Early efforts to systematize healthcare information systems in hospitals were spearheaded by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) in the 1960s. The ASTM developed the elements of information exchange that were built on by other organizations and institutes over the coming decades. The National Council for Prescription Drug Programs (NCPDP) also developed successful standards of information communication, and its initiative, The Logical Observations Identifier, Names and Codes (LOINC) database, is provided free for use by commercial labs, pharmacists, and government agencies.

Another very important development in the evolution of healthcare information systems was the passage of Medicare and Medicaid legislation in the U.S. in 1965. In order to become eligible for Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements, institutions had to carry out formalized record-keeping procedures to a federal standard. The legislation required the development of one of the first nationwide record-keeping systems for hospitals and other facilities, forming the foundation of today’s universal databases.

Several important pieces of legislation, including the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA), created in 1996, have been developed and implemented to protect more easily accessible information from being compromised or abused.

The problem of healthcare records being inconsistent across institutions is still a problem today, as there is no single dominant vendor for HIS, or an industry action group that seems able or willing to work to form one single standard for managing healthcare information at a national level. But now we have the technology capable of providing and managing real-time, important clinical information.

The Future of Healthcare Information Systems

Healthcare Information Systems

Image via Flickr by jfcherry

In the past, healthcare information systems focused on client management, clinical records, accounting, and automated transactions. Cloud computing, ultra-portable and powerful devices like laptops and smartphones, and increased options for archiving and digitizing information into readily accessible formats hint at an interesting future for HIS. With different providers, laboratories, pharmaceutical and pathology centers, law enforcement agencies, and allied health services all using their own systems, the challenge of streamlining and unifying information in the healthcare industry is very real.

The health and science industries need flexible, smart, well-trained graduates. The future looks bright for Health Information Systems specialists. If you start your training in Healthcare Information Systems, you can do your part in managing America’s health.

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