Health information technology (HIT) is “the application of information processing involving both computer hardware and software that deals with the storage, retrieval, sharing, and use of health care information, data, and knowledge for communication and decision making”. Technology is a broad concept that deals with a species’ usage and knowledge of tools and crafts, and how it affects a species’ ability to control and adapt to its environment.
However, a strict definition is elusive; “technology” can refer to material objects of use to humanity, such as machines, hardware or utensils, but can also encompass broader themes, including systems, methods of organization, and techniques. For HIT, technology represents computers and communications attributes that can be networked to build systems for moving health information. Informatics is yet another integral aspect of HIT.
Informatics refers to the science of information, the practice of information processing, and the engineering of information systems. Informatics underlies the academic investigation and practitioner application of computing and communications technology to healthcare, health education, and biomedical research. Health informatics refers to the intersection of information science, computer science, and health care.
Health informatics describes the use and sharing of information within the healthcare industry with contributions from computer science, mathematics, and psychology. It deals with the resources, devices, and methods required for optimizing the acquisition, storage, retrieval, and use of information in health and biomedicine.
Health informatics tools include not only computers but also clinical guidelines, formal medical terminologies, and information and communication systems. Medical informatics, nursing informatics, public health informatics, pharmacy informatics, and translational bioinformatics are subdisciplines that inform health informatics from different disciplinary perspectives.
A 2006 report by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality broad and consistent utilization of HIT is able to:
- Improve health care quality or effectiveness:
- Increase health care productivity or efficiency;
- Prevent medical errors and increase health care accuracy and procedural correctness;
- Reduce health care costs;
- Increase administrative efficiencies and healthcare work processes;
- Decrease paperwork and unproductive or idle work time;
- Extend real-time communications of health informatics among health care professionals; and
- Expand access to affordable care.