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Types of Health Information Systems

By Diane Chinn ; Updated October 25, 2017

Health information systems (HIS) are information management systems that capture and display data related to the delivery of health care services. An HIS is not just a system of computers and software. It includes clinical guidelines, medical terminology dictionaries, and interfaces the various diagnostic devices and other clinical and business information databases, such as laboratory, pharmacy and diagnostic imaging. It is also used for public health and medical research purposes.

Subject-based Systems

The most well-known type of health information system is the electronic medical record (EMR) or electronic health record (EHR), which is the electronic equivalent of a patient’s paper chart. The EHR is a subject-based system that captures and stores information based on a patient’s name or medical record number. It may also display information based on a physician’s name. (Ref #1) For example, a physician can view lists of all her patients who are currently in the hospital.

The Master Patient Index (MPI) is also a subject-based system. It lists all the patients who have ever been treated in a hospital or clinic. Typically, the MPI system serves as the foundation database for all other patient-related systems, both clinical and administrative, such as patient scheduling, medical records, billing, claims processing and business decision support.

Task-based Systems

Task-based systems are those that capture and report information about specific health care-related tasks such as laboratory, diagnostic imaging and medication management (pharmacy) systems. These systems are driven by the MPI system and they capture information and copy it to the electronic health record system.

Care Access Internet Systems

Electronic health records give providers and patients easy access to timely health information. Using secure internet portal systems, patients can: view their medical records, including test results; update their demographic information; schedule an appointment; request a prescription refill, or communicate with the doctor or nurse. Research conducted by the University of Colorado Hospital found that internet access systems are most effective for patients with chronic conditions, such as diabetes, or those who have had organ transplants need to continuously manage their health. (Ref #2)

Care access portals also allow physicians to remotely monitor patients with chronic conditions such as heart disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Small self-adhesive wireless electronic devices, some as small as a bandage that can be attached to a patient’s chest directly over the heart to monitor heart, respiratory rates and fluid levels. Data is transmitted by via a secure portal system to the patient’s electronic medical record and, if necessary, to a physician’s smart phone so that the patient’s condition can be monitored in real time. (Ref #3)

Administrative Health Care Services

Administrative health care systems extract information from clinical systems and use it to manage daily operations, such as scheduling appointments and billing insurance carriers or patients for services rendered.

Decision support systems extract data from various clinical and administrative systems and compile it in various ways to identify trends, analyze costs, or solve problem areas in operations. For example, an increase in the number of patients with a diagnosis of adult onset diabetes (Type II diabetes) may indicate that a health care provider must expand its diabetes education services.

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