Thursday, October 7, 2010

Information Technology in the Medical Field

The need for health care increases every day but technology helps us reach that demand. The advancement of technology gives health care workers the tools they need to diagnose and treat patients. The days of performing mundane tasks of writing and filling out paperwork and then filing it could be long gone with the right equipment and information technology. Information technology also helps to train and educate aspiring health care professionals as well as current ones to stay up to date with the tools and systems involved in the medical field. A sophisticated system can help to reduce and hopefully eliminate the human error in medicine and therefore improve health care for patients. Information technology is used to ensure the safety and privacy of a patient’s records as well as use that information for proper treatment. Communication plays a key role in providing efficient health care as well, and information technology is able to provide that aid through the internet. The advancement of technology also helps to advance the health care that is provided to people all over the world.
Information technology in health care dates back many years, as early as 1973 when Dr. Robert S. Ledley developed the first whole-body computerized tomography (CT/CAT) scanner. The CT scanner allowed three dimensional images be captured as well as plan radiation therapy for cancer patients (Sittig, 2006).  Following the invention of the CT scanner, the MRI scanner was invented, a magnetic resonance imaging scanner that allowed detailed images of the internal structure to be taken. This was a major step towards in improving health care as well as the advancement of technology. There was no telling of how far technology could take the health care profession as this was only the beginning with endless possibilities. Technology has come a long way and can even do such things as automatically give prescriptions for necessary medications to patients from a doctor.
Potential Benefits:
Information technology has a lot of potential within the health care industry and e-learning is one of the growing benefits. With the growth of the population and increased demand for health care workers for the now elderly baby boomers, e-learning has become widely popular to help reach that demand and supply the workers needed. The idea of e-learning or also known as distance learning came up to help teach aspiring health care professionals learn without having a physical land barrier prohibiting their education. It is a simple idea yet brilliant in the aspect that you could essentially be taught within the own confines of your own house and the classroom is brought to you. Studies and research have been conducted in order to prove the success of e-learning compared to physically being in a classroom environment.
A study of surgical e-learning took place over a course of 5-weeks that provided lectures prepared as HTML slides with a voice over as well as text-only forms. Logs were taken of hits the web module used to view the lectures and the timings of students logging in. After the 5-week course was over, an exam took place and the scores of the students were recorded. The students who were in the aural-derived lectures scored a significantly higher score versus students that did were non-aural (Ridgway et. al, 2007). This study showed the possibilities involved with e-learning and the efficiency of a web-based environment. E-learning opens many doors of opportunity for students and teachers alike. Students may be able to attend web courses for minimal fees and avoid costly loans for housing at a university. Some may even have a better learning experience from an area they are more familiar and comfortable with such as their own homes rather a large lecture room with hundreds of students at a time. However, some people may argue that this would take away from a social experience and advantages that come with being among your peers when learning such as forming a study group. The person-to-person experience may be more fitting to some than others, it depends on the individual’s learning habits. This does not take away from the main point; however, e-learning is effective and again, as technology advances, the experience of a web-based learning can only improve. In the health care industry, web-based learning is used to train nurses and physicians on their own time and at their own pace. If for any reason that a nurse or physician is not able to complete their web-based training session, they are able to pause and save that session and complete it at a later time (Rivers, n.d.). This allowed for more flexible schedules without having to attend monthly or annual training sessions in person as well as being able to put forth more time into patient care.
Among the list of benefits information technology has in the health care industry is the record keeping of patients and their information such as symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, etc. Filing many records and being able to keep them at hand can be a hassle, frustrating, time consuming, and most importantly the error involved in keeping said records. This is all simplified with data sheets that can be filled out electronically. Electronic records can be retrieved from almost anywhere and instantly versus a physical sheet of paper or file of a patient that would have to be found first and then possibly mailed (, 2010). All it takes is a search of the patient’s key identification tags such as their full name, last four digits of their social security number, birth date, etc., into the database and the information can be found. This eliminates any time wasted waiting for a patient’s record. Electronic records also provide a safe and secure way for patients to retrieve and access their medical information and be aware of their own health. The integration of a database that can store electronic health records into the health care industry greatly improves the standards of health care and the profession itself. Subsequently, with the introduction of the electronic medical records (EMR) came the introduction of the PDA (personal digital assistant) for nurses and physicians. The PDAs allowed nurses and physicians to have a patient’s information at their hands and available when necessary.  The PDAs also allowed nurses and physicians have and use the internet as a resource for information (Rivers, n.d.).
Information technology made life easier as a human and the mundane tasks that were done, but what if it could be taken to another level? The use of robots could eliminate the human physical labor entirely from a system and just be controlled and monitored from a wireless network. However, there are some things that humans can provide but a robot cannot such as comfort or emotional care such as sympathy and empathy. Fortunately, a breakthrough in information technology came through in 1997 at the Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu, Hawaii. Through a wireless system, robots were controlled and used to deliver medications as well as nutritional trays. Patients would be given their specified medications and meals throughout the day by the robots (Rivers, n.d.). This breakthrough in technology could provide a whole new look to patient care and more efficient health care.
Information technology helps to simplify life in many ways. The health care industry would be a lot more difficult and inefficient without information technology. From electronic records to robots delivering medication, information technology has also come a long way in the medical field. Health care and information technology go well hand in hand because as the technology advances, health care workers will have to keep up to date with the new tools in the field. Training courses provided from information technology such as a web-based course will provide the necessary education for using the technology. Information technology will continue to revolutionize the way we live and the way we work whether it is in the health care industry or a household business.

  1. Dean F. Sittig, Joan S. Ash, and Robert S. Ledley, “The Story Behind the Development of the First Whole-body Computerized Tomography Scanner as Told by Robert S. Ledley,” Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association : JAMIA 13, no. 5 (2006): 465-469. (10/05/2010)
This journal resource provided information on the background of the first whole-body CT scanner invented. This is significant when defining the background of information technology in the medical field.
  1. Paul F Ridgway et al., “Surgical e-learning: validation of multimedia web-based lectures,” Medical Education 41, no. 2 (2, 2007): 168-172. (10/05/2010)
This online library resource provided information on a study of surgical e-learning which is vital in the argument of efficient e-learning methods and the role of information technology in the medical field.
  1. Felecia Rivers, Constance Blake, and Katherine Lindgren, “Information Technology: Advancements in Healthcare,”  (10/05/2010)
This source provided information on the uses of information technology in the medical field such as a PDA. This is provided by registered nurses who have either an MSN or Ph. D.
  1. Electronic Health Records and Meaningful Use. (n.d.) Retrieved from on (10/05/2010).
This source provided the information on electronic medical records and is a valid source because it is information provided by the HHS department of the government.