Putting the “I” in Health IT

The US Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) has released a new video as part of a promotional campaign to help get the word out about the nation’s transition to an electronic health care environment. According to the ONC, the video is designed to make the complex subject of health IT and electronic health records (EHRs) more understandable and relatable. Take a look, and then read on:

Courtesy: Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology

Here in the US, we most often speak of Health “IT” (information technology). However, around much of the rest of the world it is called Health “ICT” (information communications technology). In previous HealthBlog posts and on our on-line video series, Health Tech Today, we’ve frequently discussed the importance of putting the “C” in ICT. I believe strongly that communication and collaboration in health and healthcare delivery are equally important, if not more important, than information alone. None-the-less, the path being taken toward the digitization of health information is the right thing to do, and I see examples every day that we are making a lot of progress. I especially see the benefits as Health ICT moves from what we might call legacy architecture and infrastructure to more flexible and affordable designs based on public or private “cloud computing” services.

imageExamples of the progress being made come from all corners of the earth. There’s the health system in Toronto, Canada, that deployed a public cloud solution to store and share forms, policies, and procedures across their many facilities and with other hospitals in the region. Everyone saves money by having access to this amazing repository of information, thereby avoiding the need to constantly reinvent the wheel every time a new form is required. The same health system has deployed cloud based unified communications services (Microsoft Exchange and Lync) to meet the communication and collaboration needs of care teams, mobile staff, and home-based workers.

A hospital in Vatican City has transitioned its collaboration requirements to the cloud by deploying Microsoftimage Office 365. The same is true for a major teaching hospital in Atlanta. A large public hospital system in Denver uses Microsoft SharePoint and SQL reporting services to track key performance indicators and financial results in near real time. The same solutions are powering clinical and business decisions at a large health system just outside of Melbourne, Australia. Also in Australia, an organization dedicated to serving the needs of the deaf is using Microsoft Lync’s video capabilities as a way to facilitate sign language exchanges between staff members and their clients. An ambulance service in Egypt is using a highly visual, multilingual interface to easily manage vehicles, crews, and other assets, using Microsoft and partner technologies that also integrate with GPS devices to track vehicles, routes, and driving speeds. The solution is credited with significantly reducing wait times for emergency responders. Meanwhile, a large health insurance system is New York has developed cloud-based mobile applications using the Windows Azure platform to speed development time and deployment to the wide variety of mobile devices used by its customers.

So whether it’s the “I” or the “C” we’re putting into health technology or both, there’s no question in my mind that health and healthcare are getting better because of it. You can learn more about these and other solutions for the health industry by visiting our case study site, and drilling down to your particular industry or area of interest. I also invite you to become a regular viewer of our on-line, on-demand video series, Health Tech Today, where we share some of the most interesting stories and best practices we see from around the world.

Bill Crounse, MD Senior Director, Worldwide Health Microsoft

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