Clinical care used to involve a very simple series of exchanges – the patient fell ill, paid a visit to the doctor and relayed his or her symptoms. The exchange of information mainly took place using pens and notepads. Today, information technology forms the hub of almost every single clinical activity that relies on the information that is captured. Clinical data, electronic labs, genomics, radiology, imaging and more have evolved rapidly as a result.
“The single common point of every aspect that we do in clinical care [IT] is exchanging information,” Dr. Vaidya says. “If you see a patient who is complex, involving many systems, it is amazing to know that almost 90% or 95% of the medically relevant information that is required to take care of the patient resides outside of the patient in electronic form.”
The biggest barriers to be broken are the hospital silos, where information can still be residual, locked inside a specialty, unable to flow efficiently and quickly to help the patient. Information technology, with a focus on interoperability, has to play a pivotal role in patient care and it has to be accessed by and available to anybody at anytime from anywhere. Within hospitals, healthcare information can start as islands of innovation, information and technology, held within site-specific locations and unable to be exchanged.
“People say data is the new gold or data is the new oil. I would go a bit further than that and say that data is the new life-saving drug,” says Dr. Vaidya. “Really, its smooth flow, its effective flow can do what penicillin did for infections almost 50 years back. It is absolutely crucial that the barriers are broken down, and that universal, uniform, standardized medical information and standardized terminology is free-flowing from one place to other.”