Healthcare management involves leading and organizing hospitals and clinics that offer medical care. Effective management ensures healthcare institutions run smoothly, are appropriately staffed, have all the necessary equipment, and provide high levels of patient care.
The products and services which are provided to patients come under the remit of healthcare management, these include everything from emergency to preventative care, rehabilitation, and recovery. Healthcare is a huge industry and healthcare management, therefore, plays a large role. Healthcare managers across the board are often informed by health informatics.
What is health informatics?
Health informatics is a meeting point between technology, medical care, and data. Health informatics is not a new idea, in fact, medical informatics has been used for decades, just not in its current form. Back in the 1980s, it was simply a system of computerized records on which patient data was stored and updated. The key differences now are the amount of data that is collected, the computers that process it, and its potential uses.
Today, using information gathered from research projects, patient notes, censuses, and more, AI technology can help physicians to diagnose, treat and manage a whole range of illnesses. Machine learning also has uses in tracking the progress of individual patients and predicting outcomes. As such, health informatics has made healthcare more efficient and more effective in terms of patient care. Nurses can turn to a smart tablet, app, or portal when they need to receive or send information to other members of their team, which improves the efficiency of communication. Similarly, digital prescriptions that don’t rely on hand delivery, make it easier for patients to receive their medicines and treatments more reliably and punctually.
Health informatics is not just a feature of individual hospitals and clinics, however, because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) partners with the Division of Laboratory Systems (DLS) to analyze health-related trends and suggest new forms of medical intervention. To do this, they are informed by the huge amounts of digital data that they collect and collate. Government involvement means the systems which are used to manage patient information are highly secure. Moreover, the DLS findings can be used to positively impact public health as a whole.
How does healthcare management work?
People who work in a healthcare management role help coordinate and direct their entire facility. Their insight and forward planning allows them to budget effectively, create schedules for recruitment, and design rosters for each ward. They ensure that teams and the departments they serve are running smoothly, by carrying out regular quality checks. Managers also monitor patient and staff satisfaction, to learn more about what is working well and what could be improved.
In this role, leaders can make a real difference in the success of a facility. They can lift the standard of patient care and help the team to work efficiently. People who are interested in this role can take an Executive MHA at the University of Ottawa’s Telfer School of Management (Telfer). This unique program offers expert tutelage which unites business and healthcare, preparing graduates for careers in the most advanced health management positions.
How can health informatics assist with healthcare management?
There are numerous ways in which health informatics can be used to improve hospital management and patient care. Primarily, health informatics helps senior teams improve their services while cutting costs by streaming a range of processes, improving access to patient records, and minimizing human error.
Electronic health records
Today, electronic health records include far more information than ever before. They provide a comprehensive overview of a patient which is readily available to anyone who is involved in the care team. This record remains available throughout the patient’s entire life. These digital records move with the patient as they attend different physicians’ offices, facilities, and departments. Even when a person moves to a new town or state, their medical records can follow with just a few clicks. These digital files can quickly and conveniently show every visit, scan, test, and surgery a patient has ever undergone.
With all the information to hand whenever it is needed, collaborations between health professionals from diverse disciplines are simplified. The digital availability of this information means that visits can be easily coordinated between departments in the same building. This means that patients can meet several consultants on the same day, meaning they travel less and gain access to care faster.
For the healthcare management team, the workflow of each department becomes more streamlined and consultants can free up more of their time. Furthermore, the administrative costs associated with sending out appointment letters are minimized and treatment plans are facilitated quickly between clinicians.
In the US, human errors in the field of medicine are extremely costly. Every year, the healthcare industry spends at least $40 billion as a result of mistakes and areas of inefficiency. The looming worry of failure is stressful for the physicians and nurses who man the frontline, and this is exacerbated during busy times. Moreover, this issue is constantly increasing costs for hospitals, which correlates to poorer care for patients.
Health informatics provides a solution by standardizing diagnostic procedures and the administration of medication. Specialist software can be used to interpret scans in great detail, so the smallest issues can be picked up and managed before a patient’s condition worsens. By enhancing the results of medical imaging, health informatics can prevent the need for further, more invasive testing. This is beneficial for the patient and saves hospitals time and money by catching illnesses in their early stages.
Reducing prescription errors
According to the US Food and Drug Administration, more than 100,000 reports of prescription errors are received each year. These mistakes include giving patients the wrong medication, including medication that they might be allergic to, as well as giving incorrect dosages. Digital technology allows pharmacists to work more efficiently by barcoding medications and automating many of the manual processes which are involved with dispensing. This avoids the risk of a patient’s identity being confused with that of another patient and them receiving the wrong medication as a result.
Telemedicine and telecare are at the forefront of accessible healthcare. Powered by digital technology, telemedicine and telecare services provide patients who are housebound, vulnerable, or living in a remote location with access to a doctor. This area of health informatics flourished during the COVID-19 pandemic when shielding was in place but has remained in use since.
For healthcare management, the benefits are exceptional. Telecare can reduce the instances of readmissions or unplanned admissions, by offering care as is needed. This is helpful to the many facilities which struggle to find enough beds for incoming patients and suffer from staff shortages. When patients are discharged, they can experience complications that they can easily manage themselves, with some professional advice.
Hospitals can put the appropriate support in place before they leave, scheduling regular telephone or video calls, as well as providing wearable alarms. These measures, enabled by health informatics, help to keep a patient safe and well in their own home.
Patients have more control over their health
Health professionals have always known that patient engagement is essential. People who are interested in their condition, practice self-care, and remember their medications will usually recover at a faster rate than those who are less interested. Health informatics encourages them to engage actively with their health by providing them with access to their own healthcare records through a hospital portal or an app. Furthermore, through the use of wearable medical devices, patients can monitor their condition, then adapt their behavior in response to real-time changes.
During hospital visits, patients can be shown graphics that explain their condition in great detail. These images, along with their physician’s notes and scans can be shared with them on a computer file that they can access at home. In this file, the hospital might include ideas for additional therapy, nutrition tips, and future appointments. All of these encourage a patient to practice healthy living and become far more involved in their recovery.
Hospitals can prepare for a crisis
Research carried out in 2020 indicates that COVID-19 resulted in ‘catastrophic financial challenges’ for hospitals across the US. To mitigate the impact of a future pandemic, healthcare managers are turning to health informatics. Using health data, specialists can collect, study and report on information relating to diseases that affect the public.
The National Electronic Disease Surveillance System (NEDSS) utilizes a range of different healthcare technologies which help to standardize responses to disease control. This helps healthcare managers to monitor outbreaks as they occur and be part of a coordinated response that tackles the problem swiftly.
By sharing information on disease control, health informatics can prevent an outbreak from escalating. It allows hospitals to prepare a response, ensure that they have adequate capacity in case of emergency, and have a plan to manage the potential influx of patients.
Improved clinical research
Although clinical trials are being conducted all the time to search for better, more effective treatments, this process can take years. Many patients facing life-threatening illnesses cannot afford to wait years for new treatments. Traditionally, a trial involves huge amounts of manual work, including testing and retesting over many months. However, health informatics speeds up this process in several ways.
Primarily, it can identify people to participate in the trial very quickly, based on the information harvested from electronic patient records. Secondly, it can shorten cycle times by using software to perform quality checks and machine learning to collate information. When these processes are automated, the workflow moves along much more quickly. Additionally, there is less need for human intervention, so manual errors and expenses are dramatically reduced.
Better patient outcomes
To cut costs and make the provision of healthcare cheaper, the healthcare system works hard to practice preventative medicine. In fact, according to a 2020 study, ‘early disease prevention has never been as important’, because of rising medical expenses. While doctors can give general advice on living well and avoiding disease, health informatics goes one step further.
Using vast data management systems, AI can sift through a huge amount of information from patient records, including test results and scans. By analyzing this data, it can begin to identify connections and patterns which predict how likely a person is to experience a certain condition. Once the AI has selected high-risk patients, they can be brought in for regular testing to ensure any early signs of the disease in question are treated promptly.
For many illnesses, from heart disease to asthma and diabetes, early detection can have an enormous impact on patient outcomes. Moreover, early detection often means that treatments are less invasive, less costly, and involve the patient staying in the hospital for less time.
The intersection of health and information technology currently offers many benefits to the healthcare sector. It allows patients to access the help they need more quickly and monitor their conditions independently, reducing waiting lists, and demand, at busy hospitals. Furthermore, it allows physicians and nurses to use evidence-based data to diagnose, treat and cure conditions more quickly.
Using data and technology, clinics can share information and develop new procedures swiftly, so that any developments or advances in the industry become quickly and widely accessible. The ever-evolving nature of health informatics, and its growing list of uses, means that it is and will continue to be a vital element of healthcare management.