Applied health informatics is the field that pursues the creation, aggregation, and use of health information for problem solving and decision making, motivated by a desire to improve health care outcomes. Applied health informatics, simply put, is the intersection of people, information, and technology. It is a fundamental component of all areas of health care today and going forward.
Applied health informatics has the potential to address high-priority health system initiatives, allowing us to create innovative solutions for major problems in health care. It can also decrease unnecessary variation, thus enabling the highest quality care in a rapidly changing environment.
Applied Health Informatics Benefits Patients
Applied health informatics leverages the technology, data, and talent available in the health system in order to ensure the best possible care for patients.
Applied health informatics allows data scientists, physicians, health care administrators, and many other stakeholders to create innovative solutions to problems that can hinder a patient’s care or even cause harm.
Just a few solutions developed recently by members of the Penn Medicine Center for Applied Health Informatics include:
- using artificial intelligence to review electronic health record data and predict when a patient should be removed from a ventilator.
- creating a new pathway — a specialized algorithm that physicians use to make evidence-based decisions about when to take out a patient’s catheter.
- designing a new patient engagement platform that helps patients sign up for COVID-19 vaccines and seamlessly integrates with the electronic health record.
Applied Health Informatics Benefits Clinicians
At the same time, applied health informatics can benefit clinicians.
By focusing on clinicians and the work they do, applied health informatics can make technology easier to use, saving time and frustration for health care workers, improving job satisfaction, and potentially reducing clinician burnout.
Applied health informatics also develops creative ways for clinicians to visualize data, so that key information they need to make decisions is consolidated in one place and easily understood.
Much of the hard work of entering data into electronic health records has already been done. Applied health informatics can leverage the right data at the right time to help physicians make evidence-based decisions and allow their work to be more efficient, effective, and rewarding.
Applied Health Informatics Benefits the Entire Health System
At Penn Medicine, the Center for Applied Health Informatics tackles the highest priority health system needs using a collaborative approach and seeks to align key stakeholders to develop enterprise-wide solutions.
In this work, the Center facilitates Penn Medicine’s objective of reducing unnecessary system variation and operating as a unified, coordinated, and nimble system. One such health system priority is to lay the information foundation needed to enable Penn Medicine to operate as a high reliability organization (HRO). A high reliability organization operates in high-risk environments such as health care and aviation, and makes fewer mistakes than statistically likely given its size and scope of work.
A robust information architecture will maximize Penn Medicine’s ability to analyze its operations and performance in real-time, with the goal of continuously improving the patient care experience. Such performance data will allow for rapid detection of developing problems so that harm to patients can be prevented. Indeed, a thoughtfully-developed information architecture is critical for driving improvements in efficiency, quality, and safety across Penn Medicine.
The Center for Applied Health Informatics aims to positively impact Penn Medicine by fostering collaboration among Penn Medicine groups, increasing the speed of solution delivery for high priority health system initiatives, and enabling world class care in a constantly changing environment.