History of Health Care Informatics from 1949 to the Present

Instructor: Meagan Wilson

Meagan holds a Bachelor's of Health Administration with an emphasis in Long Term Care, a Master's of Health Administration, and is pursuing a Ph.D. in Health Services.

In this lesson, the definition of healthcare informatics will be explored. Additionally, historical moments in the field will be identified and their importance defined.

Health & the Age of Technology

After a long evening in the hospital emergency room, you leave with prescriptions. While you were being treated, you watched nurses and doctors busily move from room to room. A caseworker rolled a laptop into your room and took note of your basic information. Your nurses documented in the computer when they administered medications and took your blood pressure. Finally, at discharge the doctor handed you a printed summary of your visit to take home with you, and to your family doctor.

After you leave, your stay will be billed to your insurance company using a computer system. The information about your stay will be used by a different department to help the hospital assess the types and amount of cases they saw this month, and to plan for next year. Depending on your ailment, your information may even be utilized by a public health agency.

Healthcare Informatics

Healthcare informatics is where technology and healthcare meet. It is the art and science of using technology to collect and utilize data to improve the care that patients receive, the processes of the healthcare industry, and to support research and developments in the field of healthcare.

Subspecialties of healthcare informatics

Many of us are familiar with DNA research; we have seen the mapping of DNA, the strand models, or heard about DNA testing. In recent years a particular interest has grown in finding out a person's heritage thanks to the advancements in technology related to bioinformatics. This specialty focuses on the collection and analysis of biomedical information to assist in research or patient care.

Electronic health records (EHR) or electronic medical records are commonplace in the healthcare system of today. For instance, in the introduction scenario we see multiple times where clinicians and other hospital staff utilize these systems. EHRs are a part of a specialty known as clinical informatics, which focuses on using technology for research and patient care.

How does having an EHR improve the operations of a practice? Would an instant messenger system improve the communications of a hospital? Understanding how computers and technology affect the communication and interactions of an organization is known as organizational informatics.

From the opening example we can see just how many people are involved in medical records and accessing health care information.

Understanding this complex social network and how the information available is used is known as social informatics. This specialty focuses on the social effects of computer science and aims to understand the effects technology and social environments have on each other. In doing so, we are able to find ways to protect valuable private patient health information.

Frequently in news reports that surround disease or virus outbreaks we will hear a great deal of statistical data given. For example, a reporter may inform us that a specific number of cases of the flu have been reported in a certain area. This information is part of a specialty known as public health informatics. This sub-specialty focuses on how the public understands health and healthcare and uses technology to assist in this understanding. This specialty provides public health organizations, such as departments of health, with information to assist in their efforts.

Healthcare informatics is where technology and health care meet

The History of Healthcare Informatics

Dr. Gustov Wagner, a pioneer on the path to electronic medical records, formed the first professional organization for informatics, the German Society for Medical Documentation, Computer Science, and Statistics, in 1949. His work was the basis for the electronic health documentation that we now see so widely used.

The recommendation to introduce computers into the field of healthcare, citing benefits such as reduction of possible errors, was made by Robert Ledley and Lee Lusted in 1959 . The recommendation came in the form of a paper entitled 'Reasoning Foundations of Medical Diagnosis'.

Developed at the University of Utah by R.M. Gardner, T.A. Pryor and H.R. Warner, Health Evaluation through Logical Programming (HELP), was the first electronic medical record system and was introduced in 1967. By the 1990s, the system became interactive and provided the ability to share information. Additionally, the program was the first to aid in clinical decision support, such as choosing courses of antibiotics.

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