As a family physician, Jon White dealt with mountains of paperwork every day. From charts to medical histories and prescriptions, each patient came with their own bundle of papers. Sometimes the script was illegible, and sometimes sheets would get lost. When he was on call and asked to consult on a case from home, White often couldn’t verify patient details since the files were back in the office. White thought there had to be a better way to address these challenges.
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“I came to appreciate that in order to deliver great care, you need great information,” White said.
The idea led him into the burgeoning field of health-care information technology, which includes everything from electronic health records to tracking diseases like Zika or Ebola through population health data.
White eventually became deputy national coordinator for the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, a federal organization that helps the health-care system implement and use technology.
White didn’t know it at the time, but his decision to pivot to health IT more than a decade ago foreshadowed a new era in health care.
Today health-care providers around the world spend more than $100 billion per year on health IT, an emerging field that includes electronic health records, online patient portals, health apps and personalized medicine. More than 45 percent of that spending comes from North America, according to research and advisory firm Gartner. With major market players like IBM, Cerner, GE Healthcare and many more embracing health IT, the global market is expected to increase at a rate of nearly 16 percent through 2022.
The rapid growth has brought with it a shift in the traditional roles of physicians like White, along with new jobs in health informatics. Many employers are no longer searching for just doctors and nurses. Now they need chief medical information officers, quality management officers and clinical analysts.