Both consumers and administrators may be interested to learn the evolution of healthcare information systems. Though many may be familiar with the system in place today, it has actually undergone some dramatic changes over the past few decades. Understanding how these changes have shaped the system may also help many people predict what the future may have in store for these healthcare information systems. Some of the changes have been incremental, but there are other significant milestones that should be noted by any complete history of the healthcare system. Read through some of this information if you would like to gain a deeper understanding of healthcare information systems as they are known today.
One of the first things you may want to note is that the evolution of healthcare information systems has been strongly linked to the advent of computer technology. Though medical professionals have seemingly always recorded health information, computers have allowed it to become codified. Developing a standard for computerized health records has also allowed the systems to become more efficient and effective over time. Believe it or not, but the start of computerized health records actually began in the 1950s. This marked some of the few times that computers became powerful enough to help automate the records keeping process in the healthcare system.
For the next couple of decades, progress would largely be slow within the world of healthcare information systems. Administrators began to take notice of the improvements these devices brought when they were introduced to other government office locations. This gave some of them the foresight to begin processing patient applications through a computerized network. Though it would take some time for the internet to be developed, this laid the foundation for the electronic transfer of this kind of information. Many officials within these departments also began realizing that computerized record keeping would be the way of the future, so they began to lay the groundwork for this development. Many centers for healthcare information systems began making computerized record keeping an institutional practice throughout the 1960s and 1970s.
Another big change in the evolution of healthcare information systems came with the passage of Medicare and Medicaid legislation in 1965. These laws brought in sweeping reforms to the entire field of healthcare, so naturally it affected the information systems as well. The systems set up by Medicare and Medicaid began creating government reimbursements for hospitals and medical staff. In order to become eligible for these reimbursements, these institutions would have to create formalized record keeping procedures. This was one of the first times that a federal standard for healthcare information systems had been set down in the United States.
Over the years, the healthcare information systems in the United States have continued to expand and grow based on these sweeping reforms. Naturally they have also further adopted new technologies as they became available on the market. There have been other major developments since then, such as the passage of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) in 1996. This set down a standard for the protection of healthcare information systems against confidentiality breeches. There may be additional evolution of healthcare information systems, with the passage of the new Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) beginning in 2014. As always, these healthcare information systems will need to continue adapting to the standards set down by Congressional legislation and technological capability provided by computers.
Sean Coyne holds a MBA focused on information systems and currently works in the healthcare information industry.