Health information technology

The trend in healthcare and in clinical diagnostics is toward adoption of health information technology (HIT). The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH) of 2009, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and other government regulations were all designed with components that provide incentives for doctors, hospitals, laboratories, and other healthcare providers to adopt the use of electronic medical records (EMR), electronic health records (EHR), laboratory information management systems (LIMS), and other forms of HIT.

There appear to be three major trends in HIT when it comes generally to medical data and specifically to laboratory test data. They are direct patient access, web access and mobile device access.

Another factor in the adoption of HIT is “meaningful use” (MU) guidelines. When incentives were established to get healthcare providers to adopt HIT, part of the definition involved that they adopt “meaningful use” (MU) of HIT. Meaningful Use has several different stages with varying standards adopters have to meet in order to receive the financial incentives or to avoid any penalties. Stage 1 of MU has numerous steps to it, but of significance in terms of adoption trends is the requirement for eligible professionals to “provide more than 10% of all unique patients with timely electronic access to their health information.”

Access must be through a secure channel that encrypts and protects the content. Furthermore, the patient’s information must be available within four business days for EPs and within 36 hours of discharge in hospital settings. Fifty percent of patients must have access with 5% actually viewing, downloading or transmitting to meet the Stage 2 measure.

The demand for HIT has put laboratories on the front lines in adopting laboratory information management systems that can connect with electronic health records either directly or through portals. Although this can place a financial strain on small- to medium-sized laboratories, a number of companies are offering low- cost, customizable modular systems or Web-based services that can expand their current LIMS capabilities into new areas, including to patient portals.

The technical requirements of these modules or web-based portals or services are compliance with CLIA, HIPAA, and HL7 standards, provisions to ensure the privacy and security of personal health information, and the ability to be viewed by a variety of browsers and devices, including mobile applications.

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