Health care IT and the great migration to electronic forms

Modern technology is rapidly changing the way organizations operate in every corner of the business world, but perhaps nowhere is this evolution more meaningful than in health care, where it has the potential to save lives. Today's innovators are intent on making health data more accessible, more sharable and easier to deploy in the medical setting. Health care organizations, physicians, nurses and patients alike are about to discover new ways that data can change their way of life.

Of course, the mobile revolution plays a key role in this ongoing process. As smartphones and tablets become more and more prevalent in people's lives, it becomes increasingly easy for patients and their health care providers alike to record and share data. This will help build an environment that's beneficial to everyone involved.

As this evolution continues, mobile form software will be featured front and center. Better forms lead to more effective data collection, which is the engine that makes the whole machine go.

The benefits of an HIE

For the health care IT revolution to really take off, the first step is to take all of that handwritten, pencil-and-paper data and turn it into something digitized and usable. That might sound obvious, but according to HealthIT.gov, it's easier said than done. The electronic health information exchange (HIE) is the wave of the future, but putting it into effect has proven quite the challenge.

"Despite the widespread availability of secure electronic data transfer, most Americans' medical information is stored on paper – in filing cabinets at various medical offices, or in boxes and folders in patients' homes," the government organization stated. "When that medical information is shared between providers, it happens by mail, fax or – most likely – by patients themselves, who frequently carry their records from appointment to appointment."

It's vital that we move past the old days of hard copies and facilitate a more dynamic digital environment. Doing so can have a profound impact in a wide variety of ways. It would lead to better quality data, which could help facilities avoid erroneous patient readmissions and mistakes in medication. It could also help doctors make better decisions in diagnosing their patients. Fostering an HIE is a huge step forward for the entire planet, but it's a difficult long-term process.

Assessing our long-term progress

Fostering an effective HIE that can benefit everyone is a very difficult task, and it's one that will require collaboration from the entire health care community. According to Healthcare IT News, the objective is to map out a "shared way forward" for health IT – in other words, no one technical innovator or corporate entity will have ownership of the process, but the entire global market will collaborate over the long haul.

Micky Tripathi, chief executive officer of the Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative, told the news source that it may take a decade before we've truly seen the progress we're all hoping for.

"I think we're going to be able to accomplish a tremendous amount over the next 10 years," Tripathi said. "That's what I would hope. That we see ubiquitous nationwide networks – they could be independent networks, but they talk to each other – and the ability to have information aggregation in a way that allows us to get a better perspective on the pulse of where healthcare is: where are the hotspots, and how can we do better."

The long-term goal is to turn health care into a fundamental aspect of people's everyday lives that they have the power to control for themselves. Just like logging onto their own Facebook pages or placing their own Amazon orders, looking after their health is something people should be able to control with the convenience of their mobile devices.

Mobile plays a key role

For this to work, of course, good mobile forms need to be a major driving force behind all future technical innovation. Forms enable people to share their data quickly and easily, and with better access to data, a solid HIE can begin to take shape.

According to Health IT Analytics, data management will flow much more smoothly once the world's health IT innovators set the mobile revolution in motion. That's the opinion of Ron Vatalaro of the University of South Florida's Morsani College of Medicine:

"The need for data management professionals to develop and run the necessary infrastructure is growing. Health informatics is already one of the fastest-growing segments of the healthcare industry, and the demand is only increasing as the need for efficient and effective systematic data collection, storage and management systems becomes evident."

Vatalaro noted that our current electronic health records do serve a purpose, but they are not designed for interoperability with other systems. As more mobile applications and optimized websites emerge into the scene, healthcare forms will play a greater role, and medical software companies will begin to work different types of forms into the fold.

Cal Brown