How can data-based decision support facilitate digital transformation of Healthcare?

by Daniel J. Power
Editor, DSSResources.COM

Disentangling the Gordian Knot associated with Digital Transformation of Healthcare remains intractable and challenging. Information technologists and systems designers have offered some creative ideas related to personal health records (PHR) and electronic health records (EHR), to healthcare analytics, and to decision support and artificial intelligence, but healthcare has not been transformed. Rather IT professionals and healthcare managers have been digitizing existing healthcare processes, i.e., "paving the cow paths". Digital transformation requires 1) a reexamination of processes in terms of need, efficiency, and effectiveness, 2) a data-based decision making perspective and culture, and 3) a "smarter" set of integrated information technologies.

The Pacific Health Information Network defines Health information systems (HIS) as "any system that captures, stores, manages or transmits information related to the health of individuals or the activities of organisations that work within the health sector."

Healthcare First ( identifies many different types of healthcare information systems, including:

1) Operational and tactical systems for easy classification of information.

2) Clinical and administrative systems for managing patient details on an administrative level.

3) Subject and task based systems such as Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) or Electronic Health Records (EHRs).

4) Financial systems for tracking revenue and managing billing submissions.

Combined with analytics and decision support, these disparate system can be integrated to provide a comprehensive software solution, cf.,

Agarwal et al. (2010) argued "As the United States expends extraordinary efforts toward the digitization of its health-care system, and as policy makers across the globe look to information technology (IT) as a means of making health-care systems safer, more affordable, and more accessible, a rare and remarkable opportunity has emerged for the information systems research community to leverage its in-depth knowledge to both advance theory and influence practice and policy. Although health IT (HIT) has tremendous potential to improve quality and reduce costs in healthcare, significant challenges need to be overcome to fully realize this potential." Ten years of effort and billions of dollars invested in HIT have not transformed health care. In the United States, healthcare remains a bigger and more expensive version of the system in 2009.

According to Haux (2006) "Comparing the world in 1984 and in 2004, we have to recognize that we imperceptibly, stepwise arrived at a new world. HIS have become one of the most challenging and promising fields of research, education and practice for medical informatics, with significant benefits to medicine and health care in general." The "new world" of HIS/HIT in 2019 is much different, with genomics, new digital devices, and lots of data. In some ways the HIT of 2019 has the potential of creating a "brave new world" of artificial intelligence (AI) diagnostics, robotic processes, and continuous patient monitoring.


Agarwal, R., G. Gao, C. DesRoches, A. K. Jha, "Research Commentary---The Digital Transformation of Healthcare: Current Status and the Road Ahead," Information Systems Research, Volume 21 Issue 4, December 2010 , Pages 796-809 doi>10.1287/isre.1100.0327

Haux, R., "Hospital information systems—Past, present, future," International Journal of Medical Informatics, Volume 75, Issues 3–4, March–April 2006, Pages 282-299

Pacific Health Information Network

Last update: 2018-10-16 01:35
Author: Daniel Power

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