Posted in Operations & IT Articles, Total Reads: 1364
, Published on 18 March 2014
We today live in the Information Age. This age of information finds its origin in the Digital revolution which stormed the world during the 1990’s, and ripples of which are still far from dying out. This is somewhat analogous to how the Industrial revolution in the beginning of the 18th century laid the foundation for the Industrial Age. With advancements in computer technology and the tremendous increase in the use of Internet the world today has become a very small place.
Information is abundant and very easily accessible. This seamless amalgamation of Information and technology is what is known as Information Technology or in short IT. The so called IT boom has affected everyone. IT has proved to be a boon in several areas of human development. IT has helped in assimilation, storage, analysis, interpretation, and speedy retrieval of data and has thus proven to be a game-changer in almost all sectors of business, be it agriculture, banking, hospitality, retail, etc. The healthcare industry is another sector where the impact of IT has been tremendous. We today are aware of tele-medicine, image and signal processing, etc. However there are several areas within healthcare where IT systems need to be better developed and several other areas where IT is yet to be utilized for the betterment of processes. In India, the use of IT in Healthcare is still in the nascent stage and there is a long way to go to fully tap into the benefits of Information technology. The general process for availing treatment in a hospital hasn’t changed much in the Information Age. A patient on entering a hospital or a clinic has to fill out a long form that seeks specific information about the patient such as his Age, his Blood Group, his allergies, some other genetic problems etc. Following this the patient is then directed to the concerned department where a doctor/physician examines him, prescribes treatment suitable for his ailment, taking into consideration the data filled out by the patient in the form. The patient can then purchase the prescribed medicines from an in-house drug store or from a retail pharmacist, on producing the prescription. The whole process of filling out a form in the beginning, even before meeting the doctor, is quite essential. The patient provides vital information about himself in the form, such as his allergies and genetic problems that can completely change the course of treatment which the doctor would recommend for him. In the absence of such information the doctor may prescribe some medication that could prove fatal for the patient. There have been several such cases. According to a report by the World Health Organization (WHO) one in 10 hospital admissions leads to an adverse event and one in 300 admissions in death. Many a times it may even be so that the patient might not be able to list out all the details asked for in the form, for the very simple reason of not precisely remembering them. When it comes to healthcare all these small and minor details are of utmost importance and the risks of not mentioning them or misreporting can be grave. This process is however very time consuming. A patient in distress or emergency may find filling up such a form extremely annoying and, quite frankly, to be another factor adding to his distress. There have even been cases where patients have lost their lives for not being attended to as soon as they are rushed into a hospital. Such a time consuming yet unavoidable process also means low service rate for hospitals and clinics. Thus we see that the process of filling out the form prior to treatment is highly essential on one hand and on the other posses grave threats to the patient’s life if not filled properly or not filled at all. It could cause the doctor prescribe a treatment, which given the patient’s medical history, may be inappropriate. This could lead to severe side-effects and even death. A few statistics to support this are:
• A woman from Bangalore died because of Anaesthesia allergy in August 2013. Had information about the allergy been known the tragedy could have been avoided.
• In the U.S. 106,000 deaths occur every year from, adverse effects of medications.
• The risk of health care-associated infection in some developing countries is as much as 20 times higher than in developed countries.
Given the seriousness of the situation, there is need for a system whereby accurate information about a patient’s medical history is readily available to the doctors at the time of treatment. Information Technology could play a major role in streamlining this process. Some innovations have been made in this regard, but the journey has just begun…
The article has been authored by Shikhar Mehrotra and Pawan Mishra, TAPMI Manipal.