Policies are written documents that mirror the administrators of a particular organization. In this case, the organizations are healthcare organizations such as hospitals and clinics. With healthcare informatics becoming such a big part of healthcare organizations, policies are being made to keep patients and staff safe. Healthcare informatics policy is directed at making care more effective, improving public health, and proper collection and analyzation of data to guide evidence-based practice. Since policies are reflections of administrations, they can change based on the direction a healthcare organization is heading or what their focus may be (Hebda, Hunter, Czar, 2019). For example, if a hospital is having an increase in medication administration errors, then their policy may focus on scanning all patients and medications prior to administration.
One of the biggest concerns of healthcare informatics is the privacy and protection of important patient information and policies on informatics have been aimed at reducing the risk of the security of that information being breached. Hospitals have policies such as not putting patient identifiers in emails, logging out of electronic health records once leaving the patients room, education on phishing emails, creating firewalls, having backup storages for patient information, audit trails for and specialized access for private charts. There are also policies on the recovery and retrieval of healthcare information in case of unplanned disasters. The AMIA identified six key health informatics policies: patient empowerment, HIT safety, workforce education, data sharing, quality measurement, and public health (Simpson, 2012).
The impact these policies have made on informatics have been steps in the right direction due to the importance and protection they place on informatics. They allow us to safely use informatics for better patient outcomes. Telehealth is also fairly new has new policies arising too. For example, at our hospital we use telephysch medicine for psychiatric patients in the emergency department. One of our policies is that all of our psychiatric patients must be assessed by a telepsychiatrist and their recommendation must be upheld regarding 51/50 holds. Using telemedicine in place in person consultations at hospitals that do not have in house specialties improves patient care because it saves time and money for both the patient and hospital. It is especially effective for time sensitive cases such as patients with stroke like symptoms in deciding whether or not to use TPA because instead of having to wait for a neurologist to arrive, the neurologist is able to instantly assess the patient via computer video chat and receive expert consults.
Hebda, T., Hunter, K. M., & Czar, P. (2019). Handbook of informatics for nurses and healthcare professionals. NY, NY: Pearson.
Simpson RL. (2002). Nursing informatics. Issues in telemedicine: why is policy still light-years behind technology? Nursing Administration Quarterly, 26(4), 81–84. Retrieved from https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=c8h&AN=106956521&site=ehost-live
With the rise in communicable disease, possible threats of bioterrorism, and other chronic illnesses, informatics and public health policies go hand in hand. Data collection and analyzation through interoperability systems can provide so much information that can help the entire population nationally. “Public health informatics (PIH) is considered to be one of the most useful systems in addressing disease surveillance, epidemics, natural disasters, and bioterrorism” (Aziz, 2017, p. 79). The government is essentially in control of public health decisions and determines which polices and guidelines will be enacted to abide by national standards. Public health information systems will depend on available resources and budget.
Currently, data collection comes from multiple different sources including, surveys, facilities, surveillance systems, and data collection systems such as health information exchange (HIE) and health information organization (HIO) (Aziz, 2017). Hospitals and clinics are often mandated to report specific patient information, which can aid in disease prevention and management. Although all this data collection aids in PHI, “nonclinical data sources can help assist in identifying public health trends as well” (Hebda, Hunter, & Czar, 2019, p. 426).
Surveillance systems collect patient data, which is then interpreted and analyzed to look for specific patterns and trends in diseases and injuries. This research can then provide insight on ways to possibly prevent or mitigate damage from the illness. Syndromic surveillance system is a specific system that “collects symptoms and clinical features of an undiagnosed disease or health event in near real time that might indicate the early stages of an outbreak or bioterrorism attack” (Aziz, 2017, p. 78). This information could then be conveyed to all national health officials. HIE and HIO can also provide pertinent information to the appropriate source, in the event of a natural disaster, where paper documents may get destroyed. This would be beneficial to PHI as well.
According to Aziz, the newest development in PHI is “geographic information system (GIS), which uses digitized maps from satellites or aerial photography to provide large volumes of data” (p. 78). This also helps provide nonclinical data such as location and spatial patterns. Another benefit for PHI and data collection is the advance of telemedicine/telehealth services. These services will hopefully be able to provide direct patient data, via smart devices. So many benefits exist with PHI that could provide information pertaining to vaccines, cancer, communicable disease, and the emergence of new diseases. This data would allow healthcare officials to determine if there is a possible correlation between patient location, diet regimen, or any other possible link between the patient and the illness.
PHI plays a pivotal role in the health and well being of all individuals. Funding and adequate resources need to be applied to the PHI specialty in order for it to prosper and gain support in the profession. Data collection, along with education, are imperative to the management and prevention of disease and possible threats.
Aziz, H.A. (2017). A review of the role of public health informatics in healthcare. Journal of Taibah University Medical Sciences, 12(1), 78-81. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com
Hebda, T., Hunter, K., & Czar, P. (2019). Handbook of informatics for nurses and healthcare professionals (6th ed.). New York, NY: Pearson.