Quality, Outcomes, and Health Informatics: Contributions and Challenge for the Future
Author: Michael B. Smith, MD
Masters thesis, The University of Texas School of Health Information Sciences at Houston.
During the last decade, the assessment of quality in medicine has moved away from the retrospective review of incident reports, tort claims, and morbidity and mortality, to a more proactive and prospective method of improving the overall care process. To understand, describe, and study medical care processes, outcomes management, or the compilation and use of medical outcomes, the end result of medical care processes on the patient(s), is utilized. Outcomes study requires the collection, processing, and analysis of large amounts of disparate data. This has led to the creation of electronic outcomes/quality data systems in Health Informatics (HI). The contribution of HI in facilitating the medical outcomes process is reviewed, using examples of operational systems, with discussion of both their strengths and weaknesses. While technological advancements in computer science have made these systems feasible, existing systems have also demonstrated that much remains to be addressed by the medical field in the management and use of data in these systems. Unresolved data management issues can be both extrinsic and intrinsic to the system, and often reflect the context within which the system operates. Assisting the medical field in the efficient and effective management of data is one of the major challenges for HI in the coming years.