Healthcare technology is a fast-growing field that has improved delivery of care and treatment of patients all around the world. Use of medical technology is applicable in almost every department of health care system. This includes areas such as pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, information technology, clinical medicine as well as nursing practice (Zielinski, Duplaga & Ingram, 2011). This paper is an interview report of an administrator and owner at a local home health agency in San Diego, who described the use and relevance of healthcare technology in todays healthcare system.
The interviewee served as the administrator of a local home health agency, a position he said he has managed to serve for the last ten years. During our interview, the administrator disclosed to me his career journey and a brief history of his involvement with healthcare technology. Before he took over as the administrator of the agency, the interviewee spent fifteen years working as Registered Nurse (RN) in two different healthcare facilities in San Diego.
For his undergraduate bachelors degree, the interviewee did nursing in the University of Los Angeles. After working for two years as a nurse, he went back to pursue a second degree in healthcare administration where he specialized in nursing homes. While working as a licensed registered nurse, the interviewee was mostly involved with records management which was mainly electronic health records (EHR) of patients. He pointed that most of his daily work involves management of coding and billing software that ensures electronic health records are regularly updated to reflect patients status.
In his current position, the interviewee manages staff schedules by overseeing management of health records and proper use of medical devices. He also ensures there are improvements and efficiency in the home agency to fast-track compliance on the applicable law. Besides, he serves as the face of the nursing home by representing the facility in different stakeholders meetings that discuss health care matters.
Education and Training
According to the administrator, to succeed in healthcare technology, an aspiring individual should undertake a bachelors degree in healthcare administration and after that, he or she must pursue a graduate degree in any healthcare technology related field. In this field, an individual is exposed to different healthcare and medical technologies that are integrated and used on a daily basis in health care system. An individual who has pursued training in healthcare administration will develop a deeper understanding of electronic health records that cannot be realized in any other way without learning new software skills required for its regular update.
As explained by the interviewee, strong management skills represent another important aspect that is required for an individual to succeed in healthcare technology. This is because as a healthcare administrator you will be responsible for managing a large team of staff, depending on the size of the facility you own or currently attached. The administrator pointed that his major role in the home health agency is to manage daily duties of the entire healthcare workers. Because there are several departments involved, the administrator told me the workload involved is often huge, and it does not only require strong management skills but also it requires effective organization skills to monitor the entire healthcare practitioners and thus ensure the smooth operation is always maintained.
According to the administrator, one has to be open and ready always to learn different aspects of healthcare technology. For him, he says he needs to further his legal knowledge because his major responsibility in the agency revolves around understanding and implementing healthcare policies. For instance, he pointed out that his ongoing training focuses on learning more about coding and billing that often result in legal disputes between his facility and medical insurance providers such as Medicaid Medicare.
Despite the widely-held believe that use of technology in the healthcare improves quality, efficiency, and safety of patients, few people have failed to consider that these same technologies could potentially cause adverse events and accidental errors (Daim et al., 2016). Because almost five thousands types of medical devices are currently used by millions of healthcare providers around the world, it is apparent that device-related challenges are bound to occur.
The administrator pointed out that although the use of technology in healthcare holds much promise, the expected advantages and benefits are likely not to be realized because of two inherent challenges that are inevitable. The first major challenge according to him is the poor technology design of most medical devices that do not adhere to ergonomic principles and human factors. The second challenge is the poor technology interface with the patient or environment. These challenges pose significant risks that often result in errors that prevent safer provision of care. For instance, according to the administrator adopting new technologies is likely to introduce yet-to-be errors. This usually occurs when nurses and other healthcare staff pay too much attention to data displayed on monitors to the extent they fail to identify potentially essential but subtle changes in clinical status.
Patients safety may be put at risk by the enormous complexity of devices as well as the sheer volume of new devices used by medical staff (Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, 2017). Besides, healthcare practitioners haphazard introduction of new medical devices coupled with the poor interface between multiple technologies at the bedsides of patients may cause major errors that jeopardize their safety.
The Role of Information Systems
According to the administrator, the role of information systems in the healthcare setting is invaluable. This is because effective management of patients data and records have been made possible and thus reduce intense workload which usually facilitated the failure of healthcare providers to comply with various mandatory regulations. Essentially information systems have increased the use of electronic health records in healthcare thereby it has limited the traditional stumbling blocks that for long prevented implementation of digital technology.
A range of information integrated into EHR includes individual patient statistics like age, weight, medical history, lab results, demographics, medical billings, immunization status, and allergies (Institute of Medicine (U.S.), 2014). As opposed to using of paperwork, the electronic health records have digitized communication and workflow between health professionals working within or outside a given health facility. Electronic health record system has greatly improved the services offered to patients by healthcare providers. It has managed to bridge the gap between the health facilities, the payers (insurance companies) and other health providers. Medical errors that were contributed by the handwritten medical records have since been significantly eliminated with the introduction of EHR. The increased preference for the adoption of EHRs by various federal and state governments, large medical institutions and insurance companies is largely attributed to its reduced cost and efficient and effective delivery of quality patients care.
Use of electronic health records has impacted positively professional nursing practice by enhancing clinical decision making among nurses during patients encounters as well it ensures nurses can access universal information in real time. Embracing use of electronic health records to replace handwritten medical records improves not only the quality of care offered in a given health facility, but it also improves the competitive advantage of the facility in the marketplace (Gartee & Beal, 2012). Thus adoption of information systems from a policy perspective offers an enabling platform to integrate patient information.
Role of Privacy
The Local home health agency, as explained by the administrator, has put in place stringent policy guidelines to protect the privacy of electronic health records stored in the medical devices used in the facility. Because the agency is mandated to protect at all cost the patients' records, they have adopted meaningful use policy which allows only certified access to the system. The administrator explained in great detail a series of steps that must be adhered to before patients data can be disclosed to third parties. For instance, he said the consent of an individual patient or that of their families is required before any information is divulged to third parties such as insurance companies or employers.
The need to uphold the privacy of patients records is a great concern that impact use of healthcare technology. There are apparent ethical and legal challenges that come along with the use of electronic health records in the healthcare sector. For instance, the health information management professionals must at all times maintain and balance the interest of individual patients, healthcare providers and public concerning the privacy of patients electronic health records.
Storing patients records in electronic format means that healthcare practitioners become the custodians of patients privacy. Because this information is at the mercy of healthcare practitioners, most patients who intend to seek medical help have been wary of weak data security put in place by different healthcare facilities. As explained by the administrator, several patients visiting health facilities for medical attention usually express fears that their personal information may be shared or leaked without their knowledge.
These perceived lacks of privacy by the patients especially adolescents have subjected most of them to become reluctant in seeking care especially on substance abuse or reproductive health matters. Besides, use of electronic health records has been reported to negatively affect the willingness of patients to disclose their mental health status for fear of potential breach of their privacy.
Another area the administrator claimed to cause a lot of concern among patients is the potential access to their records by employers and health insurance companies. According to him, they feel if negative health information is accessed by these third parties they are likely to be discriminated and hence encounter potential economic harm. As demonstrated by different polls, about eighty percent of people usually express fear some insurers and employers may retrieve their health information without their consent.
These present the potential points of concerns that would make individuals and most patients find it difficult to share their personal information in health care facilities freely. Therefore, these concerns may become an impediment in the delivery of quality care to patients. On the other hand, the patients reluctance to seek medical help for potential breach of their privacy shows that health care facilities have some work to do in an attempt to scale up the level of trust that is currently considered low among the patients.
During this interview, I have learned that use of electronic health records is the most important element of healthcare technology. By adopting this technology, health information can be exchanged electronically with much ease from one healthcare practitioner to another for purposes of providing safer and quality patients care (Hoffman, 2016). These electronic health records, unlike handwritten records, help healthcare providers better manage patients needs...
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