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Revolutionizing Sri Lankan Health Sector with Health Informatics Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Yasas Vishuddhi Abeywickrama, Australia Feb 21, 2004
Technology   Opinions


The application of information technology to the health and allied sector is called health informatics. Since the health sector is a crucial area in any country’s society, obviously health informatics also becomes critical for a country. This is more prominent in the light of consideration of many advantages arisen after the implementation of IT. Health informatics tend to emphasize management information systems in health care institutions, electronic health record, electronic data interchange etc.

Medical Informatics is a sub area of health informatics, which is defined as the application of information technology to practice of medicine. Medical informatics tend to focus on the digital interfacing of medical instruments, digital assistance to doctors, clinic management software, computerized patient record, etc.

Telemedicine has been defined as the use of telecommunications to provide medical information and services which is also an important aspect of the topic in consideration.

Sri Lanka, still a developing Asian country, is not economically stable. Therefore, the infrastructure for IT as a whole is not very satisfactory. Specifically, the health sector is lacking IT. A report prepared by the American Embassy Colombo on April 27, 2001 on ‘IT penetration in Sri Lanka’ mentioned that health sector is yet to embrace the IT revolution.

Few private hospitals have taken the initiative of giving facilities for online channelling. Some companies are working specifically on the matter. But, government hospitals lie well behind.

There are several advantages of implementing IT in this sector including, an efficient hospital service, minimize errors in treatment, create efficient health reports and the maintenance of patient details for the future use. It also allows easier channelling through web, efficient accounting/management facilities, minimize space for paper and linking computer systems with modern health technology so that patients get a better treatment are few advantages to be mentioned.

Analyzing health records is very important aspect for the health sector. By this, future diseases and increases of diseases could be prevented. ‘Prevention is better than cure’, they say in medical literature!

Health education is also a very important area in the sector under consideration. IT revolutionary would greatly help this. The real time data could be gathered and stored, which could be easily used by the students and even analyzed effectively to expand the knowledge.

It is also important to give an overall IT knowledge to medical students. This is an action that should be taken with having a long term expectation, because the newly graduated doctors would take initiatives for health informatics, only if they have good background knowledge about it. This is not a very difficult task since medical faculties of Sri Lankan universities can easily get the help of the faculty handling computer science in its own university in this regard.

It was noticed during the last decade that various new, unfamiliar diseases come in to the picture in a big way. Diseases like SARS, AIDS, the bird flu and mad cow disease, just to name a few. Therefore, it is very important and crucial that health sector be on the research alert continuously. For this purpose, information systems would be really helpful.

Taking action to improve IT in the health sector is one of the objectives of the e-Sri Lanka movement as well, which is conducted with the guidance of the government. Anyway, un-stabilized political situation in the country could adversely affect even the slow developments that take place in introducing IT to health.

Foreign grants also could be obtained for the improvement of health informatics since the entire world identifies this as a very important aspect today which should be given a higher priority.

Anyway, skilful Sri Lankan youths can involve in this process in a great way. Software developers are one of the new assets that Sri Lanka has, but it is important that they are given the necessary support and the initiation.

Ultimate goal of all these would be a healthy nation. A healthy nation would drive the country forward.



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Yasas Vishuddhi Abeywickrama

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