Free «Critical Factors in Implementing an IT System in Health Facilities» Essay Sample

Critical Factors in Implementing an IT System in Health Facilities

The proliferation of technological devices coupled with increased Internet penetration has augmented the adoption of IT system in healthcare facilities. This paper analyzes the critical factors in implementing an IT system in healthcare organizations. Analysis indicates that the latter in the US should fully embrace and implement IT systems as their benefits by far outweigh the drawbacks.

Reluctance to Implement Electronic Medical Records

Despite the incentives that the government has offered to encourage the adoption and implementation of the Electronic Health Records (EHRs) and other IT systems, some healthcare organizations have been reluctant to meet this target. There are numerous reasons for this peculiar phenomenon. The most notable one is that the healthcare organizations do not have the capacity to successfully implement EHR systems (Cucciniello, Lapsley, Nasi, & Pagliari, 2015). There is an acute shortage of skilled and qualified manpower to operate the systems. To further complicate the matter, most of the EHRs are sophisticated and hard to use (Mir, 2011). Considering that most healthcare institutions already face difficulties in complying with Medicaid and Medicare provisions, implementing EMRs is perceived as an unnecessary disturbance. Consequently, some organizations only adopt the system for the sake of it or when they are compelled to do that. The principal implication is that the EHRs are not utilized to their optimal levels because they have not been fully embraced.

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Another possible reason that has dissuaded EHR adoption is patient privacy and confidentiality issues. Even with safeguards such as data encryption, proper authorization of personnel and instituted penalties for violating patient privacy and confidentiality, some organizations feel insecure (Cucciniello et al., 2015). They are apprehensive of their abilities to safeguard against the risks and opt not to jeopardize the client data.

A further causative factor is the non-interoperability of the EHR systems. The systems are created and sold by different vendors. While they may have similar objectives, they have differing functionalities. Furthermore, healthcare institutions appropriating distinct EHR systems cannot share patient data in real time. There is no seamless flow of patient information (Sao, Gupta, & Gantz, 2013). It becomes of little use to implement an EHR system that can only be utilized within a particular organization. The proponents of this viewpoint argue that for optimal utilization of EHRs, they have to be standardized to enhance their interoperability (Sao, Gupta, & Gantz, 2013). Other reasons for reluctance include high costs associated with the acquisition and maintenance of the systems and the heightened risk of entering as well as continued use of erroneous information among others.

Impact of HIPAA Act on Patient Medical Records

HIPAA was legislated to provide a framework for access and exchange of information between EHR participants. One of its foremost impacts is that it enforced the confidentiality of patient medical records. It not only provided a framework to guide the sharing of medical records but also ensured their confidentiality to be protected by the Federal law (Mir, 2011). It rendered redundant the patchwork of state regulations meant to guarantee confidentiality by instituting a law that standardized the management of patient medical records across the U.S. healthcare institutions that have enhanced efficiency in handling patient data (Brunt, & Bowblis, 2014). They take reasonable and appropriate measures to guarantee patient data confidentiality and integrity. For instance, as per the provisions, most have protected their computers with passwords known to the authorized personnel only. Furthermore, the healthcare providers have actively taken steps to maintain patient data confidentiality at a personal level. For instance, they have refrained from discussing private patient details in public.

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Crucially, the HIPAA Act has improved the clients’ access to their medical records. Before its enactment, patients had difficulties in accessing even personal information whereas they have the liberty to know what is included in their medical records nowadays (Kannry, Beuria, Wang, & Nissim, 2012). The patients, further, have the authority and ability to hold healthcare providers accountable in case of any violation of patient data privacy and confidentiality. Moreover, to an extent, the patients now have the inherent right to determine the data to be included in their medical records or to have a special restriction. These measures boost the confidentiality of patient medical records.

Advantages and Disadvantages of the Adoption of HITECH Act

The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act was passed in 2009 to prompt the adoption of EHR systems in healthcare institutions. Its foremost advantage is that it managed to digitize information management operations as it encouraged the implementation of EHRs (Szerejko, 2015). The core benefits of appropriating EHRs are the increased connectivity, efficiency, and interdisciplinary collaboration which are essential in promoting the adoption of the integrative care approach. The second key contribution is that it has enforced a meaningful use of the EHR systems. The healthcare organizations are mandated not only to implement EHRs but also to do so in a manner that demonstrates meaningful use (Kannry et al., 2012). Lastly, it has enforced HIPAA Act in its unique way. The HITECH Act enforces the meaningful use of EHR systems which entails complying with patient data integrity and confidentiality provisions as delineated in the HIPAA Act.

The major downsides of the HITECH Act are that it causes incurrence of incremental operational expenses, increases employee turnover rates, and disrupts the typical clinicians’ workflow processes. The U.S. government compels compliance with the HITECH Act, yet some institutions are ill-prepared and incapable of adopting EHRs. They do not have money to acquire and carry out annual maintenance of the EHRs; however, the government has already set deadlines for the institutions to demonstrate Meaningful Use. Consequently, only 17% have fully complied (Szerejko, 2015). It has even necessitated the postponement of the onset of the third Stage of Meaningful Use. One of the strategies that can be used to arrest the high turnover rates due to the enforcement of the HITECH Act is to make the acquisition of EHR knowledge part of Continued Mandatory Education and link it to the re-licensure models. The EHR participants will have no choice but to learn how to use EHR systems. Leaving for other institutions that do not implement EHRs will not be an alternative anymore.

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Typical Workflow Processes

There are no standardized workflow processes in healthcare institutions. A typical workflow process in a primary health care institution may not include the appropriation of EHR systems. It starts with the registration of new or returning patients and scheduling of physician’s appointment at the front desk. After the registration, the clerk verifies the client’s insurance status, referrals, and other relevant information that can be used for decision-making purposes. The next stage entails a nurse briefly documenting the illness record of the patient, recording of any vital signs and symptoms, and collecting copayments (Brunt, & Bowblis, 2014). The patient proceeds to the physician who checks his/her history and complaints and performs the relevant routine examinations. After the diagnosis, the physician writes a prescription as well as enters progress notes and the billing information. If necessary, the doctor consults his peers, makes referrals and follow-up plans.

Reviewing the above typical workflow process, the single most significant process that must be eliminated to optimize care delivery is the recording of the patient’s illness record by the nurses. It constitutes a duplication of efforts which can be avoided if the healthcare institutions implement EHR systems (Szerejko, 2015). If there are no electronic records, the nurses will have to record a patient’s history each time the latter visits the institution. However, an automated system will solve the recurrent duplication of efforts by availing in an electronic format up-to-date patient history as and when required. It will save considerable amounts of time and will free up the nurses to concentrate on other aspects of care delivery where they are needed the most.

Impact of Key Federal Initiatives on Healthcare Information

The key federal initiatives, including the HIPAA and the HITECH Acts, have had significant impacts on the standards of healthcare information regarding patient privacy, safety, and confidentiality. They have augmented patient privacy and confidentiality (Cucciniello et al., 2015). The HIPAA Act, for instance, has made it a federal offense to violate the patient’s privacy and confidentiality rights. The initiatives have forced healthcare organizations not only to adopt the implementation of EHRs but also to ensure that they are functional and are used correctly. The standards of patient safety have also been improved through the expansion of the patient’s control on the use and accessibility of Private Health Information (PHI) (Sao, Gupta, & Gantz, 2013). However, it would be naive to assume that the standards have improved across the board. Patient privacy, safety, and confidentiality levels have only improved in institutions that have fully implemented the EHR systems. Organizations that have been reluctant to adopt EMRs yet implement them to be perceived as compliant invariably threaten patient privacy, safety, and confidentiality. The prescribed standards can only be maintained once institutions fully comply with the provisions of HITECH, HIPAA, and other relevant federal initiatives.

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Fundamental Advantages of IT Systems

There are numerous elementary advantages of applying IT system in healthcare organizations spanning clinical, organizational, and societal outcomes. IT systems advance clinical outcomes and augment the quality of care by making information quickly and easily available (Kannry et al., 2012). Caregivers are better placed to make informed decisions, thus reducing the risks of medical errors. Specifically, IT infrastructures in healthcare facilities provide platforms for clinical decision support systems. Functions such as computerized physician order entry systems (CPOE) facilitate integrative care approaches by enabling interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary collaborations (Sao, Gupta, & Gantz, 2013). The implication is that by improving the quality of care, the patient outcomes increase, as well. Concerning organizational benefits, IT systems in the long run are cost-effective and necessitate adoption of optimal workflow processes. Lastly, the implementation of IT systems in healthcare is beneficial in enhancing researchers’ ability to conduct research studies because information becomes easily available.

One of the likely IT developments in the healthcare industry for the next two decades is complete interoperability of EMR systems. Nowadays, patient information is siloed in diverse, non-interoperable data repositories (Sao, Gupta, & Gantz, 2013). In two decades, all the EHR systems will have a standardized interface that allows for seamless information flow. There are already entities that are petitioning the government to standardize the EHR systems to improve interoperability. Furthermore, due to increased internet penetration, the EHR technologies will enhance real-time interactions between the various caregivers. Doctors in different geographical regions will be able to collaborate via teleconferencing to deliver care instantly, eradicating the need for time-consuming referrals.

In conclusion, it is evident that the core reasons of slow adoption of IT systems within healthcare organizations are exorbitant costs, insufficient know-how, and the non-interoperability of the systems. The key federal initiatives such as the HIPAA and the HITECH Acts have not only enforced IT adoption but also promoted their efficient use. The HIPAA Act provides a framework for access and exchange of information among EHR system participants. The HITECH Act prompts IT adoption in healthcare institutions. Healthcare organizations that implement IT systems and inculcate them into their workflow processes stand to enjoy numerous benefits. EHR systems save operational costs in the long run and improve the quality of care offered. Furthermore, their adoption not only demonstrates compliance with the provisions of key federal initiatives but also confers immense benefits in clinical, organizational, and societal outcomes. Healthcare organizations should strive to implement IT systems as their benefits outweigh the drawbacks.