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  • Print publication year: 2012
  • Online publication date: November 2012

7 - The healthcare information technology sector


Introduction to information technology

Healthcare information technology (IT) was a $33 billion industry in the US in 2007, with global spending at $79.6 billion. The sector shows signs of further growth, due partly to the support of Congress and the Obama administration. One market research firm projects $40 billion in IT spending in the US by the end of 2011. It is also an industry in transition, from early applications that supported batch processing of financial transactions to sophisticated, artificial intelligence-assisted real-time clinical process management systems. This chapter will discuss the size and organization of this important sector, review the major applications developing in healthcare IT, and also look at the barriers to the adoption and use of these technologies.

Over the next decade, IT holds great potential for improving the healthcare experiences for patients and their families through facilitating more rapid and accurate diagnoses, fewer medical errors, and reducing duplicative information requests in the treatment and payment process. While overall IT spending faltered in the wake of the collapse of the internet bubble, healthcare IT spending grew in the 2000s in the US due to pressure from payers and clinical leaders to improve clinical quality and outcomes. However, after the economic downturn that began in 2007, healthcare companies began to seek ways of limiting non-urgent spending, including spending on health IT. Nonetheless, Congress and the Obama Administration have increased investment in health IT. During his first year in office, President Obama signed into law the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act portion of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009, which allocated $36 billion to support investments in healthcare IT.

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