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What is Health Informatics?
Health informatics is the use of computer and information technology to implement systems by which the health care industry better works with itself and patients. A variety of resources involving information acquisition and storage are utilized to provide health care providers with better opportunities and procedures to make decisions impacting public and individual health. Issues with the methodology of health informatics and quality of life concerns make the overall implementation of the associated programs both a positive and negative for the industry.
Above left: Electronic Medical Chart. (Supplied by Ruud Koot at Wikimedia Commons; GNU Free Documentation License; http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/b/b8/Sshot_fever.png)
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How Can Health Informatics Affect Our Quality of Life?
The concept of health informatics and quality of life improvements within the medical industry affect all fields of of health care. From nursing and clinics to biomedical research and public health concerns, health informatics can provide a streamlined approach to providing health care and determining a course of action. Medical software programs make decisions easier for doctors and providing long-term resources for studies and tracking needs.
Clinics and hospitals nationwide can access medical records of individuals regardless of the location. This means that if a person is on vacation and gets in a car accident, the medical records are available to a hospital no matter how far away from a primary care facility the person is located. The quality of life for patients can be greatly improved by preventing duplicate testing, which drives up the cost of health care. It also allows doctors to analyze results from other physicians all over the country, helping them find the best course of action for their patients.
Public health officials and agencies can also utilize the system to help establish policy and make decisions regarding public health concerns. Statistics can easily be analyzed, giving officials a better snapshot of the overall health of a particular group or area. In addition, the research culled from a wide range of medical providers allows them to make better decisions in the event of a crisis. For example, if an influenza pandemic begins to break out, health care agencies can determine the locations of infections, how the virus is spreading and what is the best way to address the concerns.
A major challenge with health informatics and quality of life issues, however, is the chance of security breaches within the system. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act mandates that all information about patients be kept strictly confidential. But by implementing a centralized database, the possibility of someone using the system to steal identities and use the information for personal gain is prevalent.
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What is the Future of Health Informatics?
Nations around the world have begun to implement programs that are geared towards streamlining medical information technology to help with the processing of patients and preserving the health of the population. In the United States, the Department of Health and Human Services utilized the concept to adopt new policies geared towards implementing health informatics and quality of life standards for the entire country. To accomplish this, a 10-year plan, beginning in 2004, was established to create a centralized database of electronic health records. Oversight and certification are supplied by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology.
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Institute for Health Informatics at the University of Minnesota: http://www.ihi.umn.edu/
American Medical Informatics Association: https://www.amia.org/