From relieving people of repetitive tasks, to building everything around us that shapes our lifestyle, and on to transformation of volumes of data into new insights and perspectives, software has become the new feedstock for the human evolution. All facets of life are touched by software, and healthcare is no exception.
The Complex Web of Health Industry
The health and social care industry is a highly fragmented and complex industry with medical practitioners, nurses, health professionals, hospitals, clinics, government, and non-government agencies all providing health services.
The spectrum of healthcare providers range from individual clinicians such as general practitioners to large monolithic entities, such as the National Health Service in the UK, which is the third largest employer in the world today.
Health and social care providers offer a complex and diverse range of facilities and services. By the nature of these services, the healthcare industry is driven by large and varied amounts of data which in turn require varied and complex IT systems to manage this data. Generally, these systems come under the umbrella term of eHealth. While there is no consensus on the exact definition of eHealth, two example definitions are:
“…the cost-effective and secure use of information and communication technologies in support of the health and health-related fields including healthcare, health surveillance and health education, knowledge and research.” –The World Health Organization (WHO)
“…the use of modern information and communication technologies to meet needs of citizens, patients, healthcare professionals, healthcare providers, as well as policy makers.” –The European Commission
Whatever way people choose to define eHealth, it generally encompasses:
- Electronic Health Records (EHR)
- Electronic Medical Records (EMR)
- Telehealth and telemedicine
- Health IT systems
- Consumer health IT data
- Virtual healthcare
- Mobile Health (mHealth)
- Big data systems used in digital health