Using health information technology to manage your information


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Using health information technology to manage your personal health information is an important part of our changing health care system. You and your doctor can better manage your health care by improving how you communicate with each other and how you maintain your health information.

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Using health information technology to manage your information

  1. 1. Using Health Information Technology to Manage Your InformationUsing Health Information Technology to Manage Your InformationFrom Michael Bihari, MD, former Guide Updated April 06, 2010Using health information technology to manage your personal health informationis an important part of our changing health care system. You and your doctor canbetter manage your health care by improving how you communicate with eachother and how you maintain your health information.Using computers and other electronic devices makes it easy for you, your doctor,and other health care providers (such as hospitals, labs, and X-ray facilities) tostore, share and access your health information. Using computers in this way isknown as Health Information Technology (HIT) or Health IT.Using Health Information TechnologyHealth information technology may be useful for: Reducing paperwork by eliminating the need for handwritten medical records Reducing medical errors by transmitting accurate information electronically and eliminating mistakes due to misreading of your doctor’s handwriting Reducing health care costs by decreasing the need for repeat medical tests by different doctors and eliminating storage space and staff time to maintain medical records Improving your quality of care by decreasing medical errors and assuring that all your health care providers have accurate and timely informationAlthough HIT has many uses throughout our healthcare system, three importanttypes of health IT may affect you in the near future as more consumers usepersonal health records (PHRs) and more physicians use electronic health records(EHRs) and electronic prescribing (e-Rx).Personal Health RecordsYour personal health record (PHR) is an online document with information aboutyour health (and the health of family members) that you keep up to date for easyreference. Using your PHR, you can keep track of your family’s health information,
  2. 2. Using Health Information Technology to Manage Your Informationsuch as the date of your children’s immunizations, last physical exam, majorillnesses and operations, allergies, or a list of family medicines.Many PHRs are easy to use and may be provided free from your health plan, thegovernment, your doctor’s office, and private companies. Some PHR companiescharge a monthly or annual fee. Since your PHR is online, you can get into andmanage your health information from anywhere that you have access to theinternet.Since you can collect, view, manage, and share your health informationelectronically, having a PHR will allow you to take a more active role in managingyour own health care.Electronic Health RecordsAn electronic health record (EHR) is computer-based document that is used byyour doctor, your doctor’s staff, or a hospital. An EHR (similar to your old papermedical chart) contains health information from your doctor and other healthcare providers. A typical EHR has information about your health conditions,allergies, treatments, tests, and medications.Many EHRs can connect with health care providers outside your doctor’s officesuch as specialists, labs, imaging facilities (X-rays, CT Scans, MRIs), and the localhospital. This allows your doctor to share up-to-date information with your otherproviders as well as getting quick and easy access to your tests and hospitalinformation.Since everyone involved in your health care can share accurate information, yourEHR can help lower the chances of medical errors and may help improve thequality of your health care. Some EHRs have warning systems built in to let yourdoctor know about drug allergies or potential problems with drug interactions.
  3. 3. Using Health Information Technology to Manage Your InformationAlso, some EHRs have medical alerts to remind your doctor to perform certaintests or procedures. For example, if you have diabetes, your doctor’s EHR mayremind your doctor to check your feet at every visit or order a blood sugar test.Depending on the EHR used by your doctor, you may be able to link your personalhealth record with your doctor’s electronic health record and share informationback and forth.Electronic PrescribingElectronic prescribing or e-prescribing (eRx) is a way for your doctor and otherhealth care providers to send your prescriptions to your pharmacy electronically.Instead of writing out a prescription and having you take it to your drugstore,your doctor orders your medication through her office computer, which thensends a secure electronic prescription to your pharmacist.Electronic prescribing helps to: avoid mistakes due to your doctor’s handwriting or your pharmacist’s misreading of your doctor’s prescription abbreviations avoid harmful drug interactions by letting your doctor know that the drugs being ordered may interact with a medication you are already taking allows your doctor to see what medications are on your health plan’s drug formulary to make sure the drug being ordered is coveredPrivacy and Security IssuesOver time, all of your health information will be available electronically, not onlyto you and your doctor but also to other health care providers and your healthplan.Because many organizations and people may have access to health informationthere is concern about the privacy and security of health information technologytools. Over the past several years there have been security breaches in hospitalsand doctors’ offices resulting in medical identify theft. Access to your personalinformation may allow thieves to bill for medical services in your name.
  4. 4. Using Health Information Technology to Manage Your InformationThrough the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996,the federal government has established strict rules to protect the privacy andsecurity of your electronic information. HIPAA gives you rights over your healthinformation and sets rules and limits on who can look at and receive your healthinformation.Your doctor, other health care providers and your health plan are required tokeep your information private by teaching their staff how your information mayand may not be used and shared and take appropriate and reasonable steps tokeep your health information secure.Using Health Information technology to manage your information“Technology is the way forward and there’s no two ways about that.” FeelsAcroseas and this has become a universal truth considering the rapid changes inthe countries’ healthcare system around the world. Especially in the US with thesoul aim being to go paperless, the tech revolutionaries are biting into the biggerpie of providing solutions-based offerings, rather than staying put on profit-drivenproducts.