Initiatives and Barriers to Adopting Health Information Technology: A US Perspective
Henry A. DePhillips
In recent years, US healthcare experts have increasingly agreed that the effective application of information technology (IT) can enable the industry to address its three most pressing concerns: an increase in medical errors, rising costs, and the fragmentation of care delivery. While other industries have fully adopted and capitalized on IT to optimize operational efficiencies and customer service delivery, healthcare systems in the US have generally been slow to make a full transition. Presently, one of the quickest and most efficient ways health systems can begin to benefit from IT is through the implementation of the electronic health record (EHR). This dynamic resource provides key healthcare stakeholders (patients, payers, and providers) with a comprehensive view of current and historical patient data compiled from various sources. It holds tremendous potential for better management of chronic diseases, improving outcomes, and streamlining expenses. While the EHR has been shown to generate positive results in its limited use so far, its widespread implementation faces several hurdles, most notably cost. Additionally, primary EHR users (payers and providers) often experience initial infrastructure and personnel burdens, along with potential workflow disruptions. Despite this, considerable support for the EHR as an entry point for full-scale IT adoption is mounting in the US with a number of high-level government initiatives. This article examines the current state of health IT efforts in the US, the barriers to further adoption, and how technology can be, and is being, used to meet major challenges in the US healthcare industry. Although this article exclusively examines the US healthcare system, the author believes that many of the issues and scenarios described herein are universal among healthcare systems worldwide. At the same time, the author acknowledges that, to a great degree, each nation's healthcare system faces its own unique considerations that may or may not be reflected in or relevant to the information in this article.
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