Insights & Expertise

5 Ways That IT Impacts Your Health

by Gail Benner

Laptop and Stethoscope

Information technology has stunning potential to change health care — from connecting patients in rural locations to highly sought-after specialists, to the power of Big Data in medical research. But it also carries great risk — hackers and even simple user error can result in significant risk to patients.

Thomas Martin, Ph.D., assistant professor of health services, has dedicated research to the intersection of health and IT throughout his career. Martin currently teaches health informatics at the graduate level in Saint Josephs’ School of Health Studies and Education and has previously served as a director with the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, a global nonprofit focused on telehealth and digital health, and more recently as program director for the Health Informatics program at Temple University.

While it may go unnoticed by most patients, the delivery of health care is being impacted more and more by the information technology systems underpinning it, Martin says. Here are five ways he says that your trip to the doctor or overall wellness may be impacted by health IT:

1. Health Data Is Valuable
"Your health data is one of the most valuable data sets around. While hackers pay around $1 per credit card file in a spreadsheet, your health data fetches far more -- around $40 a line,” Martin says. “Also, large companies are increasingly interested in what they could learn by analyzing your information along with that of other patients. This means that each and every time you go to the doctor, valuable data is created and stored. How your doctor stores and uses that data is incredibly important. You should also consider credit monitoring for your children as pediatric hospitals are high-value targets for medical records.”

2. Health Data Is Powerful
"Mobile applications provide a platform to conduct research at a scale not previously seen before,” Martin says.”Access to this non-identifiable data allows experts to conduct better research by increasing diversity among study participants and also collecting data passively. Better research means better health care for all of us.”

Your health data is one of the most valuable data sets around. While hackers pay around $1 per credit card file in a spreadsheet, your health data fetches far more -- around $40 a line."

Thomas Martin, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Health Services

3. Health Data Is Useful
"You probably remember signing forms when you first see a health care provider. What you ultimately provide in these forms is the ability for other health care providers to see some of your health data in the future, as needed for your treatment. This saves time, and hopefully avoidable duplications of tests and services. Who wants to get blood drawn twice anyway?”

4. Health Data Saves Lives
"Studies show that accessing your own health information can help avert costly mistakes or make important corrections. But sadly, the weight scale is usually still correct in the office,” Martin says. “Share this with your other providers and store your copies somewhere safe. You can do this by taking advantage of patient portals to review your doctor’s notes, diagnosis, and prescription information.

5. Health Data Improves Quality
"This study shows the overwhelming benefit of electronic health records (EHRs) -- increased quality. More than 80 percent of health care research conducted shows that using EHRs in the medical office and throughout the system has a positive impact on care.”