Original Date: 11/03/1996
Revision Date: 01/18/2007
Best Practice : Healthcare Information Technologies
The healthcare community trails far behind other industries in its use of standardized information systems technology. Because health information systems are non-standard, fragmented, and often proprietary, they limit access and interoperability. Estimates reveal that healthcare professionals spend almost 40% of their time on paperwork, usually searching for critical information. Frequently, decisions must be made without the benefit of the latest information in real time. In addition, the demand to control spiraling healthcare costs while enhancing and broadening access to care drives many healthcare technology initiatives. The challenge lies in determining which technologies meet current or emerging requirements; how to integrate and protect the system and its information; and how to make the resulting applications useful and accessible to the user community.
Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s (ORNL’s) Data Systems Research and Development (DSRD) program participates in or leads several key projects in healthcare information technologies. Two projects include the Healthcare Information Infrastructure Technology (HIIT) and the Healthcare Information Technology Enabling Community Care (HITECC). Both projects are funded by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Advanced Technology Program and co-sponsored by the Healthcare Open Systems and Trials (HOST) consortium. The HOST consortium's mission is to improve healthcare (cost, quality, and access) through the widespread deployment of open, interoperable, standardized, and secure healthcare information systems. The team participating in these projects consists of leading companies in the information technology industries; major healthcare organizations; and public and private research institutions. The DSRD program provides overall technical leadership; demonstrates proof-of- concept with enabling technologies that use rapid-prototyping environments; and develops and implements technology testbeds.
The HIIT project will enable a virtual healthcare environment. By providing the necessary information tools, HIIT can dramatically improve the availability of healthcare information and the use of healthcare resources via electronic commerce, shared vocabulary, work flow, and complex query tools.
The HITECC project is developing and demonstrating information mechanisms needed to change fragmented electronic and paper-based healthcare data into a community-wide, computerized information resource which provides secure and simple access to integrated, multimedia information across local and wide area networks. Communications; information security; and storage and retrieval of images comprise the three major aspects of HITECC.
The HIIT and HITECC projects are developing new tools for healthcare information technology utilization and management. The DSRD program contributes to these projects through such capabilities as telecommunications and networking technologies; information security; image processing; modeling and simulation; biotechnologies; standards application and development; and validation and verification via independent testbeds and technology assessment. Much of this work demonstrates potential use for military healthcare applications. In addition, the DSRD program functions in a leadership role to bring together unique capabilities for identifying problems; and developing and testing proof-of-concept prototypes that support Department of Defense (DoD) needs.
The potential broad-based economic benefits of projects like this are staggering. For example, HITECC offers solutions which could provide up to $1.5 billion in healthcare savings. Nationally, healthcare costs consume approximately 14% of the U.S. GDP and are rising each year. As of 1994, the U.S. GDP was estimated at more than $1 trillion annually. The rising healthcare costs produce a negative impact on the U.S. economy in terms of jobs, quality of life, small business viability, and global competitiveness. Considerable savings could be realized if the burden of handling material and information was reduced through the re-engineering and automation of these tasks.
In addition, HITECC offers potential healthcare savings in three main areas: Integrated Multi-media Functionality (IMF), Community-wide Secure Information Sharing (CSIS), and Collaborative Computing (COLLAB). Table 2-1 shows a breakdown of these areas regarding technology applications, productivity enhancement, and projected benefits.
Table 2-1. HITECC Potential Healthcare Savings
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