A new field known as health informatics (HI) involves the use of information technology (IT) to improve healthcare for individuals and larger populations. One inherent objective is to improve the education of all those involved in the healthcare process and to radically improve research into health problems and issues so that better treatments can be developed. Telemedicine involves both IT professionals and healthcare workers of all types.
Anyone who has been to a hospital or even a doctor’s office can see many new technologies in use. These new technologies have also led to changes in healthcare policies which have made the experience of healthcare better for both doctors and patients. Some improvements include more complete electronic health records, new types of healthcare data analytics, health information exchange between doctors and hospitals, new IT architecture for information systems related to healthcare, evidence-based medicine, and much better information provided to patients.
With all the healthcare data now being collected, entire new sectors of the healthcare industry are blossoming. These include new types of statistical analysis of healthcare information and technology, and telemedicine, or the remote diagnosis and treatment of patients through telecommunications networks.
This latter development, telemedicine, saves patients and doctors time and money making the delivery of certain types of medical services more efficient. It seems odd that it has taken so long for telecommunications technologies to truly deliver services over long distances. However, electronic information was never widely available and diagnostic equipment that could be used in remote areas was not quite ready to send information over telephone lines or via wireless networks.
One vastly underserved group of patients has been US veterans. Recently, the Veterans Administration began investing in telemedicine type technologies, including real-time video and high-speed internet combined with health informatics so that waiting times for health services can be reduced.
The following video, “Telemedicine Can Improve Care, Especially for Underserved Patients,” explains why telemedicine is growing so fast.