INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY

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Healthcare has traditionally seen lower levels of investment in IT than other service industries. This has resulted in a number of problems for healthcare providers, with systems in desperate need of modernization to overcome the challenges that have arisen over the years – disparate mix of software systems that struggle to share information, infrastructure that hinders rather than helps expansion or growth, and programs that are not optimally aligned with clinical workflows.

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Patient-Centric IT
Recent advances in IT are enabling providers to improve the quality of patient care. Today’s healthcare IT is much more than traditional isolated computers and unfriendly applications. Increasingly, patient care is exploiting the new tools and information that systems can provide, while maintaining a patient-centric approach to their use. Software that supports the core medical processes, hardware that allows easy access to information at the point of care, and standards that make the integration of different systems easier than ever before are all key features of the new healthcare IT systems.

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“With increased investment in modern IT systems as well as new facilities, organizations are improving healthcare for patients, and raising it to a world-class standard,” commented Richard Shediac, Booz & Company Partner leading the Healthcare Practice in the Middle East. Fundamental to the success of investments in IT, however, is ensuring a holistic approach to the technology, which means understanding the strategic goals of the organization and understanding how IT, from technological and organizational perspectives, can help to achieve them.

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IT Driven By Care
The driving force behind the revolution in healthcare IT is the desire for providers to offer the best possible standard of care to each patient. This has driven the emergence, and growing sophistication of the Electronic Medical Record, (EMR). This digital record can hold the full details of an individual’s medical history, which ultimately helps to direct diagnostic and therapeutic decisions when a patient enters the healthcare system.

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“Healthcare providers will only realize the benefits of the EMR once the necessary infrastructure for distributing the information within an integrated healthcare network is established,” said Shehadi. This highlights the critical connection that organizations must establish between information and information access: while the EMR on its own is a powerful tool, its combination with other networked applications ensures availability of the appropriate information; where and when needed, at the point of care.

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Setting Standards
In this ever-evolving technology landscape, setting IT standards are a key factor in making best use of all the new software and hardware available to healthcare providers. Proper standards define the rules of engagement between systems – for example, how medical information should be stored and communicated in the network. As these standards are defined, the benefits of their proper use are becoming increasingly tangible.

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One impact is of fundamental importance to integrated healthcare networks – the ability to scale IT across facilities. “With common standards governing systems design, organizations are increasingly able to grow their IT capacity and functionality, at the same rate that their clinical business strategies demand,” said Shediac. This link between IT and business strategies ensures that investment decisions taken at the IT level serve the best interests of the key stakeholders; in this case medical staff and patients.


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