Students who are making college and career decisions should know that working with medicine, technology and finance are respectful ways to make a difference in his or her community. In fact, proficiency in these three areas allows workers to better support patients by providing better services at lower costs through easier access to information. It can also bring comfort to a community as word gets out that a certain professional with these blended skills is offering help to his or her community. Students planning to enter health care can learn much about the total industry by studying pharmacists.
Pharmacists are important for a variety of reasons including their ability to keep patients aware of medical supports that are available. They also assist in ensuring that appropriate medications are dispensed and reducing prescription errors. Technology helps pharmacists keep track of patients and their medical needs. It also helps track all the medications a certain patient might need.
In neighborhood pharmacies, pharmacists dispense medicine, advise customers on the use of various medications, and actually advise doctors about medication therapy. Pharmacists are also very important researchers as pharmaceuti¬cal manufacturers develop new drugs. Pharmacists are often involved in testing the effects of drugs before they are approved for widespread distribution. Others work to promote products, providing customers with advice on use, effectiveness, and possible side effects.
To E or Not to E? That Is the Question
Today’s students are naturally compelled to use technology. This could be beneficial to the future of health care. “Despite the spread of increased internet availability, e-commerce, and a whole system of global communication made available by the internet, many doctors seem reluctant to offer online services to their patients” (Hodai, 2007). There are many people (not just doctors) who don’t use technology routinely. This may be because some haven’t prioritized technology as a necessary tool for work in everyday life. They may prefer sticking with basic applications that they consider to be helpful in performing routine tasks.
“According to a 2006 survey conducted by Manhattan Research, only 25 percent of doctors said that they had any internet communication with their patients. Some doctors are reluctant to conduct an online relationship with patients because they fear that they will be inundated with patient e-mails…” (Hodai, 2007). Doctors and patients can have appropriate relationships supported by the use of technology that creates, organizes, manages, and contains patient information. Doctors should be a part of organizations of other medical professionals that create and follow specified controls and procedures to limit security breaches or irritating situations such as being overwhelmed by e-mails and other information.
New Requirements for the Future
The federal government has recently initiated efforts to modernize processes used to maintain medical information in the United States. According to Pat Arlotto (n.d.), there are seven strategies healthcare organizations should adopt to prepare for the implementation of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH):
• Build HITECH awareness (i.e. HITECH requirements should be reflected in the organizations plans, staff members and systems should be aligned with HITECH, and procedures for training staff and measuring effectiveness should be in place.)
• Invest in a transformation infrastructure (i.e. the organization’s leaders should lead transformation from old systems)
• Build clinical informatics expertise (i.e. train practitioners to understand the new relationships among reimbursement, better quality, and clinical systems)
• Develop a business intelligence strategy (i.e. creating new knowledge by collecting, managing, analyzing, applying data)
• Invest in physician business services infrastructure (i.e. revenue management, human resource management, practice management, credentialing and EHR deployment, and operations support)
• Explore a medical trading area health information exchange (i.e. CEOs, CFOs, CIOs, and chief medical officers from key MTA provider organizations share information and lessons learned to optimize system-wide functioning)
• Design an e-strategy for engaging patients (i.e. building a culture of patient health self-management via the new technology)
Following the lead of Medicare and Medicaid, some commercial payers plan to develop pay-for-performance programs that base payment to providers partly on whether they demonstrate appropriate use of electronic health records (EHRs).
It is important for administrators, technology staff, and finance staff in hospitals to work as a team to implement new systems that use technology to maintain records. If only one person or department is assigned responsibility for the EHR process, there is a greater chance of poor communication, ineffective organization, and problematic data quality. This translates into higher costs and waste. Ultimately, all of this affects the quality of patient care. In some health organizations, however, the CIO is solely responsible for HITECH readiness. Given the long-term implications of efficient use of EHRs on revenue, however, many organizations require that the CFO also understands and is involved in HITECH readiness.
Pharmacists are Pioneers
As stated earlier, patients have benefitted from ways in which pharmacists have already linked technology to record keeping and quality care. Most pharmacists already maintain confidential computerized records about patients’ prescription histories. This prevents harmful drug interactions that many times doctors are unaware of. Pharmacists ensure the accuracy of every prescrip¬tion that is filled, but often rely on pharmacy techni¬cians who assist in dispensing medications. Due to pharmacists demonstrating the three skills discussed, patients perceive an immediate and full effect of quality health care. Good relations among pharmacists and patients give patients confidence in not being over-medicated or over-charged. They also feel that having one pharmacist as the reviewer of prescriptions (that could come from several doctors) reduces the risk of taking medications that may be harmful to them. Today’s technologies more strongly enable pharmacists to be advocates for patients in these ways. HITECH can make this happen throughout the health care industry, and tech-savvy and business savvy students will fit well in this new environment.
HITECH is of significant importance within the ranks of health care administrators. Pharmacists can inform HITECH policy in valuable ways. Pharmacists, naturally, have a broad view of health care administration. Pharmacists “advise their patients, physicians, and other health practi-tioners on the selection, dosages, interactions, and side effects of medications…” (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, n.d.). In hospitals, pharmacists sometimes advance to supervisory or administrative positions.
Many people believe there are benefits to improving health care management through the use of technology because of the efficiencies in managing funds and patient records. With new technologies and procedures, patients and those who care for them will benefit from more informed relationships and improved quality of care. HITECH paints a clear picture of things to be expected of those entering the health care industry in the future.
– Arlotto, P. (n.d.). 7 strategies for improving HITECH readiness. Retrieved November 10, 2010, from http://www.hfma.org/Templates/InteriorMaster.aspx?id=23547.
– Hodai, B. (n.d.). Conventional medicine astonishingly slow to adopt online technology, e-mail. Natural News.
– U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (n.d.). Pharmacist. Retrieved November 9, 2010, from http://bls.gov/.