Advanced healthcare IT may change the medical field
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Advanced healthcare IT may change the medical field

For the healthcare IT industry, the past few years have been marked by rapid change, especially in when it comes to electronic medical records and telemedicine technologies. Together, these solutions stand to change the way the entire industry operates, including the way patients participate in their own care. As advancements continue rolling in, hospitals must weigh the benefits of empowering the public with more control over its health.

According to Computerworld, Dr. Eric Topol, the chief academic officer of Scripps Health, drummed up considerable support for more extensive use of telemedicine solutions during his keynote speech at the HIMSS13 Conference. Topol asked attendants to consider whether IT advancements are beginning to render physicians obsolete, and the 32,000 attendants applauded the concept of a digital revolution that could bring about this change.

However, Topol may not have expressed disdain for doctors so much as support for a new way of managing information. Computerworld noted that the speaker denounced the idea of the current practitioner-patient relationship, in which the medical professional has control of all of an individual's healthcare information. Traditionally, patients have had very little access to their own records, but as telemedicine and electronic medical records become more common parts of the industry, democratization is becoming more viable.

Specifically, Topol cited mobile tools that can be used with a personal smartphone to measure vital indicators as driving forces behind major change. Technologies such as blood glucose and pulse monitors allow patients to be engaged with their own care instead of relying solely on doctors for information, although this increased involvement has not yet truly been leveraged by medical experts, he explained.

Topol was not the only speaker at HIMSS13 who agreed that further work is needed for success in the realm of healthcare IT.

"If we are to transform healthcare information technology, that means we must engage all stakeholders. That means non-IT people," HIMSS board member Scott Holbrook said, according to the source. "We must transform from provider to citizens-centered healthcare. We must bring these consumers into our world."

However, a recent study from Harris Interactive showed that doctors are hesitant to allow too much participation from their patients, especially when it comes of electronic health records. Of 3,700 doctors, only one-third said they believe individuals should have full access to their digitized medical files. Sixty-five percent of respondents were in support of limited access.

Despite some doctors' reticence, the healthcare IT revolution is coming. National Defense Magazine pointed out that telemedicine is already taking futuristic forms, with medical robots becoming a reality. The Food and Drug Administration approved the first telemedicine robot, iRobot's RP-VITA, earlier in 2013. The tool allows doctors to interact in real time with patients at the hospital from remote locations through the use of a mounted iPad and sensors based on Microsoft's Kinect technology, originally conceived of for more interactive video gaming. These sensors allow the robot, which is human height, to navigate the medical facility safely.

It's an exciting time for healthcare IT. But for advanced IT to produce real results, including improved patient outcomes, medical professionals need to embrace new solutions.