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Friday, 30 March 2012

Information Technology for Health Sector – a Need for Pakistan!

Owing to the technology having improved and sharpen our lives to a much larger degree, in addition to stressing its involvement in different facets, inclusion of Information Technology (IT) applications in health sector also need proper attention.

Health Information Technology (HIT) refers to the use of IT and its applications by health personnel, patients and service providers etc. The usage may cater to cover a multitude of purposes i.e. keeping health records, facilitating appointments and assisting the physician etc.
Involvement of HIT in health sector is spreading at rapid pace in developed nations. However, in developing countries, particularly Pakistan, its applications are limited to administrative and financial purposes.
Our health system needs proper consideration. With an annual population growth of 2.1%, initiatives to tailor the health-sector to modern tech-tools seem mandatory for sake of a prosperous healthy Pakistan.
There is an urgent need to consider using HIT in the country’s health sector, as major occurrences of medical accidents occur due to lack of collaboration between medical practitioners, inaccessibility to latest medical tools and unavailability of patients’ log in emergency cases.
In a proper functional HIT, the medical records are computerized, internet is used for sharing documents, electronic identification for patients is used, and the system is fully centralized. Due to their nature of demanding quick care and treatment, health-related matters need integrity, quality of service, promptness and fast delivery. Using latest information technology tools promises such objective.
Some of its applications include reduction in paper work, which, in addition to lowering the chances of medical errors, is also eco-friendly. Also, the maintenance of a patient’s medical history in digital form relieves him from taking medical test repetitively. By accessing health information actively medical-professionals can get themselves updated with latest trends and latest communication tools can allow long distance collaborations.
For underdeveloped countries, the major reason preventing them to include HIT is the lack of proper IT and telecom infrastructure. However, in our case, the technological advances allow even far-flung areas to get connected via Internet, which can be considered as backbone of HIT. Moreover, the country is blessed with talented IT professionals and engineers. However, it lacks planning and support from the respective authorities.
Some of the suggestions are as:
  • In addition to planning and initiating the idea, training arrangements should be made for concerned medical as well as technical professionals. A fragment of such professionals should be cross-trained and HIT related courses should be included in the medical curriculum.
  • To evaluate its feasibility, research and statistical studies need to be carried. Proper allocation of funds is also necessary as in previous fiscal year, among Rs. 663 billion allocated for public sector development, only Rs. 16.9 billion were fixed for health division.
  • Due to cultural and social setup, general tendency to adopt a change is lower. To help solve such quandary, the authorities must emphasize the need to adopt HIT.
  • Initially the newly HIT-based setup should run in parallel with conventional system and to rule-out chances of starting errors, back-up arrangements must be available.
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