Tech Terms Cheat Sheet: The Health IT Vocabulary Non-CIOs Need to Know

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Healthcare information technology knowledge is no longer the exclusive domain of CIOs. All hospital and health system leaders should know some commonly-used tech terms to keep the conversation flowing in an increasingly digital age.

The list below was compiled with the help of Kumar Chatani, senior vice president and CIO of The Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City; Keith Jennings, CIO of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston; and Spencer Hamons, vice president and CIO of Taos (N.M.) Health Systems.

Big data
Refers to data sets too large to process by traditional data management solutions. "Big data platforms are emerging to help organizations effectively and efficiently manage the fast-growing volume, variety and velocity of data," says Mr. Chatani. These platforms will allow hospitals to use this data for better decision-making on a macro level, he says.

Bring Your Own Device
Often referred to as BYOD, a policy under which personal devices (smartphones, tablets, etc.) are used to access hospital networks and systems. If a hospital implements a BYOD policy, Mr. Chatani says the hospital's wireless networks "must be capable of accommodating such access, and measures such as mobile device management solutions must be utilized to control access and protect both data and infrastructure."

Clinical information system
A system that collects, stores and provides reports on clinical data. Some hospitals have integrated systems that combine its CIS and hospital information system.

Cloud computing, cloud storage
Internet or network-based computing or storage, which gives healthcare organizations "the opportunity to dynamically allocate storage and computing power on an as-needed basis, resulting in reduced time to deploy, improved productivity and reduced costs and footprint," says Mr. Chatani.

Electronic data capture system
A computerized system that collects data from a clinical trial.

Electronic health record
A digitized patient record, it is designed to be able to share patient information between providers, and able to be accessed by all parties involved with the patient's care, according to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT.

 Electronic medical record
A digitized patient record, it contains the medical and treatment history of a patient at one practice, according to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT.

Encryption
A process of encoding electronic data for secure storage or transmission. "Executives should think of encryption as an essential technology," says Mr. Hamons.

Firewall
A software- or hardware-based network security solution that screens incoming and outgoing data packets based on a pre-set algorithm, protecting a network from external threats.

Health information exchange
Allows healthcare professions to electronically share and access patients' medical information. "Right now, this term is encompassing state and federal HIEs, as well as health systems' own exchanges," says Mr. Jennings.

Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act
Promotes the adoption and meaningful use of health IT. Passed as a part for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, part of the act strengthens HIPAA enforcement regarding electronic transmission of health information

Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)
Sets national standards for the security of protected health information. In January, HHS announced a final omnibus rule that strengthens existing regulations, with a compliance deadline of Sept. 23, 2013.

Hospital information system
An IT system designed to manage the medical, financial, administrative and legal aspects of a hospital or health system. "Every executive should know what vendor supplies the primary HIS" for his or her organization, says Mr. Hamons.

Integration
Bringing devices, applications or systems together. "Executives need to understand the integration capabilities of their IT departments and the integration process for the various systems a hospital has in its inventory," says Mr. Harmons.

Interoperability
The ability of different devices or systems to exchange information. EHR interoperability is the ability of EHR systems to share patient data with each other.

Machine-to-Machine (M2M) computing
Technology that allows wireless and wired systems to communicate with other devices. "M2M uses a device to capture an event, which is relayed through a network that translates the captured event into meaningful information," says Mr. Chatani. "This is useful in using machines to relay information to central hubs for analysis."

Meaningful use
A set of specific objectives for the use of EHRs, established by HHS. Hospitals and other healthcare providers must meet these criteria in order to qualify for incentive payments from CMS, appropriated by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The objectives will evolve in three stages, the second stage beginning in fiscal year 2014.

mHealth
The practice of medicine or public health when supported by mobile devices such as smartphones or tablets.

Middleware
Software add-ons to achieve a process goal, such as interoperability. "Middleware can be useful, but comes with a cost and potential risks," says Mr. Harmons.

Mobile computing
"A human-computer interaction by which a computer is expected to be transported during normal usage," says Mr. Chatani. Examples include smartphone, tablet or PDA usage.

Mobile device management
Software that provides security and support for mobile devices across an enterprise. "It's important for hospitals as physicians start bringing in their own devices, or hospitals start issuing tablets or other devices," says Mr. Jennings.

Real time location system
Applications used to track and identify the present location of objects. "It's used frequently in things like employee ID badges and medical equipment," says Mr. Jennings.

Software as a Service (SaaS)
Formerly called app hosting and currently also known as on-demand software, a model in which software is hosted on a cloud and leased out for short-term use.

Telemedicine
Using telecommunications devices to deliver healthcare remotely.

Unified communications
A product or a group of products that "can get phone, texts, emails, etc, all present on a single platform," says Mr. Jennings.

More Articles on Health IT:

ONC Releases Guidance on EHR Contracting Terms
4 Best Practices for Physician Compliance With HIPAA Omnibus Rule
The Financial Benefit of EHRs: A Tale of Two Studies


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