How healthcare information management is changing and evolving
Videoconferencing is a set of interactive telecommunication technology, which allows people in two or more locations to interact through two-way video and audio transmissions concurrently (Cohen, 1982). This technology is designed to serve a group of people for example a conference rather than individual, hence its name video conferencing (Ibid, 1982).
This technology can be used in a conversation between people in two private sites, for example offices that is, point-to-point or groups of people in several sites (multi-point). Besides, it can be used to share documents, computer-displayed information, and white boards (Burdick, et al., 1996). Early analogue videoconferences ere developed soon after invention of television, which consisted of two closed-circuit television systems linked through cable (Cohen, 1982).
T.V. channels used analogue video conferencing when reporting from various locations. Also during the first space exploration missions, in 1960s, NASA used this kind of videoconferencing (Burdick, et al., 1996).
In fields like education, medical, business and social areas, this technique was not used, as it was expensive especially in long-distance application (Preston, 1993). Due to globalization, increased need to share information, need for interaction between people in the same fields but in distant locations. In 1980s, digital telephony transmission networks were developed (Burdick, et al., 1996). This would later help in development of current video teleconferencing systems (Cohen, 1982).
Videoconferencing technology has a great impact in many areas of human life. Most notably, is in the field of medical and healthcare (Bashshur & Armstrong, 1976). Videoconferencing has been very useful in improving efficiency in healthcare information management in United States.
Under the law, health professional has a legal duty to maintain medical records of his/her patients as part of care of the patients (Burdick, et al., 1996). Doctors and other health professionals are under duty of care to exercise high degree of sobriety and accuracy during consultation, recording of outcome of consultation, during treatment and after treatment of a patient (Bashshur & Armstrong, 1976).
Before the use of videoconferencing technologies in health information system, doctors and health professionals could only interact face-to-face with their clients, management trusts, government officials, fellow doctors and other stakeholders (Bashshur & Armstrong, 1976). The level of integration of information among stakeholders in health sector was low (Ibid, 1976).
In medical research fields, researchers travelled from their research base to research centers to test or compare their findings (Preston, 1993). To interact and share knowledge and findings, research could travel around the globe. To fight world’s pandemic diseases that was by then, for example, measles, polio and diabetes, doctors who participated in development of vaccines and other medicines could travel to various countries to collect and test their samples (Ibid, 1993).
In making capital management decisions trust managers and agents who used to manage health institutions usually met to discuss and pass these decisions. It used to take time to make decisions, some of which required quick response. This used to decrease the quality of service delivery and reduce inefficiency and effectiveness in running of these institutions (Bashshur & Armstrong, 1976).
Patients had to travel to doctors, nurses or other health professionals to consult and procure treatment in cases of emergencies (Preston, 1993).
Videoconferencing technologies broke the geographical distances between people in different locations. The impact of use of videoconferencing in health care and medical fields is very wide (Cohen, 1982).
Doctors and other health professionals are under standard duty of care to their patients. By use of video consultations, doctors can get information that they require from patients even when the patient is not available to come for face-to-face consultations (Burdick, et al., 1996). This helps doctors to follow on a patient’s condition effectively and enable the doctor to offer high degree of care on his/her patients (Ibid, 1996). Videoconferencing systems also enable doctors to undertake a careful analysis of the clinical and technical data concerning his/her patients (Preston, 1993).
Under the law, management in the health authorities and trusts that manage health institutions, are under duty to continually monitor and improve quality of health care. This is referred to as duty of quality care (Bashshur & Armstrong, 1976). This requires the management to have in place strong quality assurance mechanisms (Preston, 1993). Video consultations, interactions and data management, which are supported by this technology, are useful tools in governance of health institutions. Therefore videoconferencing has enabled improvement of clinical governance and thus improved health services (Burdick, et al., 1996).
Recently, the number of medical negligence claims has been increasing. This is mainly due to poor performance by the medical personnel (Preston, 1993). There has been need to improve safety and manage risk associated with negligence of health professionals and poor performance (Bashshur & Armstrong, 1976). This has been managed through videoconferencing systems. Senior clinicians in hospitals are able to regularly prepare brief reports on improvement of quality care and risk management, which are discussed with management with the help of videoconferencing tools. Videoconferencing systems also help management to develop and implement strategic policies and clinical standards that help reduce clinical risks (Cohen, 1982).
Doctors and other clinical staffs who do not have enough knowledge and skills are trained on areas they lack knowledge inorder to reduce legal liabilities that arise due to negligence and poor performance (Bashshur & Armstrong, 1976). This is done through videoconferencing. Through videoconferencing, risks to which patients are exposed are identified and procedures are put in place to monitor and minimize or eliminate those risks (Preston, 1993). This is done through consulting patients and others outside hospital organizations that can identify possible risks that may arise. Also, by use of videoconferencing technique, health institutions are able to identify all adverse incidents when they occur, develop a reporting and investigation scheme and manage complaints procedure (Cohen, 1982).
Videoconferencing has improved on effectiveness health institution in offering their services (Burdick, et al., 1996). It has enabled health professionals to maintain accurate and adequate clinical records which are important in service delivery (Preston, 1993). Also they have helped in improving records’ storage system (Bashshur & Armstrong, 1976). Doctors by use of this technology can hold records of their patients for longer time.
People who are not able to attend physically medical institutions are able to access medical services (Cohen, 1982). This helps these institutions improve their effectiveness. Since this technology is timesaving, diagnosis, consulting and administration of treatment is more effective as high number of patients can access it at any given time (Ibid, 1982).
In conclusion, with the use of videoconferencing technologies, management of health information has greatly improved. The technology has helped management in developing more efficient information systems. This has improved in health service delivery as high numbers of patients get high quality services. This has resulted in high quality of medical services.
Bashshur, R., & Armstrong, P. (1976). Telemedicine: A new mode for the delivery of health care. Inquiry, 13, 233-244.
Burdick, Anne E., et al. (1996) Telemedicine: Caring for Patients across Boundaries. Ostomy/Wound Management Vol.42 (9), 26-37.
Cohen, K. M. (1982). Speaker Interaction: Video Teleconferences versus Face-to-face Meetings. Proceedings of Teleconferencing and Electronic Communication. University of Wisconsin.
Preston, J. (1993). The Telemedicine Handbook: Improving Health Care with Interactive Video. Picture Tel Corporation, Danviers, MA.