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Information for Consumers

Health information technology (health IT) makes it possible for health care providers to better manage patient care through secure use and sharing of health information. Health IT includes the use of electronic health records (EHRs) instead of paper medical records to maintain people's health information.

Widespread adoption of health IT is an essential component of the health care reform and will provide the infrastructure for a smarter, coordinated, efficient, and higher quality system of care. Specifically, health IT has the potential to:

  • Ensure that patient health information is legible, accessible, accurate, and complete when it is needed for diagnosis, treatment and management of patient healthcare
  • Provide decision making support, such as alerts and reminders of recommended (or contraindicated) treatments, tests, and medications based on an individual's diagnoses and other characteristics
  • Enhance relevant communication between clinic staff, providers across multiple settings, and patients
  • Make our health care system more efficient and reduce paperwork for patients and doctors

How Can Heath IT Help in the Real World?

Dealing with Chronic Conditions: The over 133 million Americans (nearly 1 in 2) dealing with a chronic illness (diabetes, heart disease, cancer and asthma)are faced with a long, arduous journey through a host of doctors, surgeons, labs, radiologists, hospitals, etc. Chronic care patients face not only coping with the medical realities of their illness, but with a complex health care system that can be difficult to navigate. Could there possibly be a more inopportune moment to be taxed with the frustration of administrative bureaucracy and lack of coordination? Patients still hand carry records from one doctor's office to the next. They are asked to recall prescriptions, dosage information, lab results and a host of other medical information. With everything locked away on paper in a filing cabinet there is no easy way to share current information and coordinate care, leaving this void to be filled by the already overwhelmed patient. In an integrated and interoperable health IT world, all your doctors would be securely sharing information and working together to come up with the best treatment for you.

An "Unplanned" Trip to the ER: You are driving up north when you lose control of your vehicle, colliding with oncoming traffic. You are knocked unconscious and rushed to the ER in a town you have never been in before. How does the doctor know what medications you are taking or your medical history? With a truly integrated and interoperable health IT system the ER doctor would be able to securely look up key medical information that could help save your life.

A Midnight Fever: In the middle of the night your child awakes with nausea and a rising fever. You call his pediatrician at home but can't remember any key medical history (current medications, allergies to medications, immunization history, etc.) that the pediatrician is asking for. Do you waste possibly critical moments searching for the prescriptions bottles and your notes form the last office visit? If your pediatrician has an electronic health record system the child's chart would be securely and instantly accessible to the pediatrician on their home computer. With access to all of his medical history the doctor could determine crucial next steps.