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Information technology's new role in the world of health care

The pairing of health care and information technology sounded like a match made in heaven, at a forum hosted Tuesday by a local IT group at Hofstra University in Hempstead.

Health care reform and its requirement for an electronic exchange of medical information will give IT a starring role in the digital transformation of the health-care industry, said speakers at a forum hosted by the Long Island chapter of the  Association of Information Technology Professionals. Not bad for an industry given up for dead after the bust in 2000.

That remaking will include:

  • A digitized health-care industry that will allow doctors to share files about the same patients, to improve care and cut costs.
  • An emphasis on prevention that will include sending e-mails or text messages to remind patients of appointments.
  • Data analysis that will track the outcome of care.

The biggest steps will be producing electronic records.

“Electronic medical records are going to be an essential tool to enable the transformation,” John L. Bosco, the vice president and chief information officer of North Shore-LIJ System, told the luncheon crowd at Hofstra’s University Club.

The switch to digital records isn’t going to be easy, Lynette Byrnes, practice administrator for Rheumatology Associates of Long Island told the group in a kind of reality check. The practice, which has three locations and more than 50 staff members, has switched over to electronic medical records. But it took two years to work out the bugs, she said.

“You can have records at a snap, but it’s not easy to get there,” she said. “You need a strong IT support team.”

The transformation no doubt will be closely watched on Long Island. After all, health care accounts for about 28 percent of the jobs here, according to Pearl Kamer, chief economist for the Long Island Association.

And the digitization of the health industry will create job opportunities. Bosco, the North Shore executive said that some estimates indicate the industry will need at least 200,000 health IT workers, but the country has just an estimated 108,000 now.

Those numbers point to the increasing specialization of the industry, which continues to shed generalists but take on workers with niche skills.

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