Improving Healthcare Through Information TechnologyErika Barredo
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) has come a long way since its inception in 1969. The agency has evolved and acknowledged the potential of medical informatics. It has awarded more than $250 million to support over 150 projects in this field.
The AHRQ is tasked to research the importance of Information Technology in clinical research and translating such research into practice for a more effective healthcare system.
Government Projects Related to Information Technology in Healthcare
The Institute of Medicine (IOM) established the Committee on the Quality of Health Care in America in 1998 to research health care quality in the U.S. One of their reports pointed out that the U.S. healthcare industry is lacking in general. The IOM provided options on how to utilize Information Technology (IT) by improving access to hospital information and making decisions based on those facts. However, the benefits of applying Information and Communications Technology (ICT) is not applicable to every medical scenario. A recent sampling of research from the AHRQ, as part of their Evidence-based Practice Center (EPC), program supports this assertion.
Since the concept of integrating IT into healthcare isn’t perfect, the AHRQ focused on areas where it’s applicable. It developed research solicitations (RFAs) including the Clinical Informatics to Promote Patient Safety (CLIPS) to help reduce medical errors and improve patient care safety through IT.
“The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) supports medical technology efforts in small business, research networks and other organizations in order to make medical technology more practical in application.”
Other AHRQ projects include the following:
- Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) Program – assists small businesses with development of IT-related innovations for healthcare.
- Integrated Delivery System Research Networks (IDSRNs) – encompasses various delivery networks in different organizations and utilizes their databases for research related to healthcare.
- Practice-Based Research Networks (PBRNs) – comprised of community-based clinicians and researchers
- Translating Research into Practice (TRIP) – facilitates research results for practical applications
- Bioterrorism – involves counter-terrorism in the medical scene
Modern Technology in Nursing
Nurses rely on basic senses (sight, touch, smell, and hearing) when providing health care. While medical technology has improved nursing in general, there are challenges which need to be addressed to make it more effective. Some of the issues include design or interface issues, which are counterintuitive due to human factors and the hospital setting in general. Practical implementation as well as maintenance are also problems to contend with.
“Medical technologies are promising when applied to genetics, biometrics, robotics, 3D printing, non-invasive procedures, and health information systems.”
Despite the setbacks, there are specific medical technologies that are quite promising, particularly for nurses. Some of these include:
- Less or non-invasive technologies – can reduce errors in diagnosis and treatment, as well as patient risk.
- Health Information System (HIS) – provides 24/7 access to important medical data in hospitals, greatly reducing errors when it comes to administering medication and providing care.
- Biometrics – enhance medical information security and reduce management-related costs.
- Robotics – while robots can never replace human care, they can at least provide assistance with tasks requiring physical exertion.
- Genetics – studying health-related concerns based on genetic factors can possibly prevent the occurrence of diseases before they even develop.
- 3D Printing – has the potential to rebuild human organs in the future by using bio-inks to restructure cells.
Training and Technology Reduces Nurse Injuries
Patient care is one of the most challenging aspects of being a nurse – particularly when lifting and transporting patients. U.S. Veterans Affairs records over 2,400 nurses who suffer from injuries due to lifting patients. With training and technology specifically designed for this purpose, related injury can be lessened, if not eliminated.
“Lifting and transporting patients causes nurse injuries. The U.S. Veterans Affairs records over 2,400 nurses which suffer from injuries due to lifting patients.”
Some options which can be utilized include the ceiling lift and sling, an old school technique which works wonders when it comes to reducing physical strain – particularly on specific body parts such as the head, neck, trunk, arms, and legs. HoverMatt, a floating mattress, is a more advanced technology for lifting. It uses air streams to lift the mattress. When it comes to transporting patients from one area of the hospital to another, a self-driving gurney can be used.
Medical technology makes it easier to be a nurse or hospital staff member. It prevents possible injury to both patient and healthcare provider, and enables more accurate diagnosis and treatment.
We are one with government efforts to extend the application of information technology into the medical field. We offer just-in-time training (JITT) for low-use, high-risk devices and processes.
- U.S. National Institutes of Health’s National Library of Medicine (NIH/NLM)
- Signa Vitae, A Journal In Intensive Care And Emergency Medicine
- National Public Radio