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Mar 20, 2017 12:02:25 PM · by David Kushan

Three Ways Emerging Healthcare Technology Is Likely to Impact Informatics Professionals

Advancements in healthcare technology are dependent on adoption by clinicians. Clinician adoption will only happen, however, when significant investments are made in staff training and in coming up with a more user-friendly system design. Once those issues have been addressed, then Electronic Health Records (EHR) and other emerging healthcare technology will be able to realize their full potential.

Unfortunately, many healthcare organizations have not reached a point where staff training and system design have progressed enough to ensure widespread clinician adoption. Too often, doctors resist using a computer or tablet to avoid frustration. When using functions such as Clinical Decision Support (CDS), they often become overwhelmed and eventually fatigued by system alerts. These behaviors serve to undermine the benefits of the technology and stifle wide spread adoption. As a result, technology’s impact has not come anywhere close to what it could be -- yet.

The challenge for informatics departments is to improve in these areas so that technology can deliver on its original promise. When that does inevitably happen, the current focus on implementing new systems will shift toward optimization and leveraging the technology to its full capability.

Here are three ways informaticists will be impacted by the capabilities of emerging healthcare technology:

1. Informaticists Will Need to Develop More People Skills
As EHR systems mature over the next decade, Artificial Intelligence (AI) will likely take on a much bigger role. Already, some elementary forms of AI like CDS have provided helpful additions to the workflows of medication orders and treatment overall. AI will soon be able to perform predictive analysis based on patient medical records, genetic predispositions, and large-scale data accumulation.

Given the numerous patient care benefits of AI-powered predictive medical analysis, there will be increasing industry pressure to exploit the technology. Without clinicians on board, it won’t happen. Informatics professionals will then get caught in the middle between frustrated executives wondering why their investments in EHR aren’t paying off the way they expected and beleaguered clinicians wondering why they had to deal with the hassle of migrating to a new system.

The answer? Better training and system design. Informatics professionals will be expected to work closely with medical staff to customize or configure the user interface of systems and improve their alert structure. In training sessions, informatics experts must be able to convey the value of new technology, incorporate clinician feedback to improve system design, and adeptly counter embedded cultural resistance to change by clinicians. All of this requires a great deal of interpersonal skill that has’t traditionally been associated with informatics.

The result of such continuous training sessions should be to make clinicians more comfortable with the technology and increase their understanding of the benefits that directly affect them.

These could include more time to focus on unusual patient cases or more interaction time with patients once EHR and related technologies (like natural language processing) mature. Although clinicians may initially only see the cumbersome aspects of changes to their workflow, as they see the patient care benefits unfold, they will begin to embrace the technology.

2. Informaticists Will Need a Deeper Understanding of Current Clinician Workflows

In order to improve training, informaticists must gain greater insight into how emerging healthcare technology will change workflows. In the next decade, healthcare organizations will experience a shift to further dependence on electronic data and eventually AI. Within this environment, informatics will serve a crucial role in helping clinicians use the technologies more effectively.

For example, many traditional pharmaceutical functions, like checking prescriptions and ensuring orders are correct, could be performed by a combination of an advanced CPOE system and pharmacy robots. An order from a clinician could result in the CPOE checking the prescription and dispensing the medication through an automated cabinet system. Without the proper understanding of current processes, though, informaticists won’t be able to properly help pharmacists and clinicians learn these new workflows and the transition will be more challenging.

As technology shifts, it will also become essential for informatics professionals to understand the vulnerabilities built into these vital systems. Otherwise, skepticism is likely to ensue on both the clinician and patient side and progress could get sidetracked. Once again, it’s imperative for informaticists to provide improved training that gives solutions for system weaknesses, as well as improved system design overall to eradicate those weaknesses, is imperative.

3. Informaticists Must Help Solve Interoperability and Integration Issues

Many healthcare systems do not currently work together. This is a huge hurdle to wide scale technological advancement and innovation. This can be seen in the haphazard way that EHR must often be transferred between institutions.

Continuity care documents are often faxed PDFs, and certain systems do not interact even within the same institution. Technological advancements on the horizon, such as increased use of personal medical devices for monitoring as well as AI, depend on systems being linked to each other. Interoperability challenges and increasing integration between different technologies will be an important focus for both leading organizations and those trying to catch up.

Informatics departments will increasingly need to ensure that they have experts, who can lead interoperability projects and help to bring about further integration throughout organizations. This will ensure the effectiveness of new technologies and provide for better patient outcomes.

The design of machine learning technology and its ability to connect with other systems and devices is foundational in ensuring the next level of innovation. A strong command of this technology is essential for institutions. IT applications must be able to work together, or much of technology’s potential cannot be realized. In trying to achieve better patient outcomes through these technologies, interoperability may be the greatest challenge of all. Informaticists have to help find ways to overcome these hurdles.

Learn more about how emerging technologies are leading to exciting healthcare innovations by downloading our latest eBook "The Future of Healthcare: How Technology Could Change the Way Healthcare is Administered".

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