Understanding basics of a Hospital Information Systems (HIS)

Hospital information systems have become very advanced and new innovations are continuously being introduced. But a HIS is useless if it confuses the hospital employees.


Healthcare is a very important part of our society and it is imperative for healthcare providers to do their jobs in an efficient and effective manner. Each day hundreds of thousands of patients enter healthcare facilities challenging the administration to run the show smoothly. The employees have to manage and integrate clinical, financial and operational information that grows with the practice. Previously, this data was organized manually, which was time consuming and failed to deliver the desired level of efficiency. Most professionally run hospitals and clinics now rely on hospital information systems ( HIS ) that help them manage all their medical and administrative information.

hospital information system ( HIS ) is essentially a computer system that can manage all the information to allow health care providers to do their jobs effectively. These systems have been around since they were first introduced in the 1960s and have evolved with time and the modernization of healthcare facilities. The computers were not as fast in those days and they were not able to provide information in real time as they do today. The staff used them primarily for managing billing and hospital inventory. All this has changed now, and today hospital information systems include the integration of all clinical, financial and administrative applications.

Modern HIS includes many applications addressing the needs of various departments in a hospital. They manage the data related to the clinic, finance department, laboratory, nursing, pharmacy and also the radiology and pathology departments. The hospitals that have switched to HIS have access to quick and reliable information including patients’ records illustrating details about their demographics, gender, age etc. By a simple click of the mouse they receive important data pertaining to hospital finance systems, diet of patients, and even the distribution of medications. With this information they can monitor drug usage in the facility and improve its effectiveness. Many hospitals have as many as 200 disparate systems combined into their HIS.

Hospital information systems have become very advanced and new innovations are continuously being introduced. But a HIS is useless if it confuses the hospital employees. The system must be user friendly and should include training by the vendors. A good HIS offers numerous benefits to a hospital including but not limited to the delivery of quality patient care and better financial management. The HIS should also be patient centric, medical staff centric, affordable and scalable. The technology changes quickly and if the system is not flexible it will not be able to accommodate hospital growth. An effective HIS also delivers benefits such as:

  • enhances information integrity
  • reduces transcription errors
  • reduces duplication of information entries
  • optimizes report turnaround times

Modern hospital information systems typically use fast computers connected to one another through an optimized network.  These computers are programmed to collect, process, and retrieve patient care and administrative information ensuring better ROI and delivery of service. If the hospital authorities have more relevant information they can make better decisions.

HIS leverage a highly optimized core library that ensures the delivery of operational and administrative information required by users. A centralized information system can be customized according to the specific requirements of a hospital. A hospital can tell the solution provider its needs and the applications can then be molded to deliver exactly what was demanded. For instance, you can demand a solution that is based on RDBMS for easy retrieval of information. You can also ask the vendor for a HIS that has user friendly features and a multilingual interface that can be used by a diverse workforce.

HIS for Different Departments

Nursing Information Systems ( NIS ) – These computer based information systems are designed to help nurses provide better patient care. A good NIS can perform a number of functions and deliver benefits such as improving staff schedules, accurate patient charting and improve clinical data integration. The nursing department can have a better managed work force through schedule applications enabling managers to handle absences and overtime. The solution can also be used to monitor staffing levels and achieve more cost-effective staffing. Patient charting applications allow users to enter details regarding patients’ vital signs. Nurses also use it for admission information, care plan and all relevant nursing notes. All important data is securely stored and can be retrieved when required. Clinical data integration is also very useful, allowing nurses to collect, retrieve and analyze the clinical information and then integrate it to design a patients’ care plan.

All these features in NIS ultimately lead to a reduction in planning time and better assessments and evaluations. The chance of prescribing the wrong medication also decreases since there is always a reference for electronically prescribed drugs.

Physician Information Systems ( PIS ) – As the name suggests, PIS systems aim to improve the practice of physicians and are also recommended by the government for deployment. Physicians can avail themselves of the Federal Government stimulus package aimed to provide better medical care. Various packages are available to suit different budgets and can be implemented to increase efficiency, cut costs and deliver high quality patient care.

Physician information systems are delivered through computers, servers, networks, and use widely deployed and popular applications such as, electronic medical records (EMRs), electronic health records ( EHRs), and more. Mose of these services have 24/7 remote support that allows hospital staff to troubleshoot problems occurring during system usage.

Radiology Information System (RIS) – These systems are also popular for their ability to provide radiology billing services, appointment scheduling as well as reporting and patient database storage. The radiology practice has become more complex with advances in technology and more hospitals now turn to RIS to manage the business side of their practices.

Pharmacy Information Systems- Designed to address the demands of a pharmacy department, PIS helps pharmacists monitor how medication is used in hospitals. PIS helps users supervise drug allergies and other medication-related complications. The system allows users to detect drug interactions and also helps administer the proper drugs based on the patient’s physiologic factors.

Selecting a Hospital Information System

Total cost of package – Generally, HIS providers are happy to visit and discuss the requirements of your hospital with you. Solutions are available for hospitals of all sizes and budgets. It is important to have a hospital information system that has a low cost of ownership. Some vendors reduce costs by having a design that requires less hardware and fewer servers. This type of design is known to cut upfront acquisition costs and also reduces maintenance in the long run.

Web based system – In addition to the user friendly features, a good HIS system must be available on the web. Availability on the web means authorized personnel can access the information whenever they want from anywhere. This does not bind all caregivers to their office desks and also provides them with information when they need it most. A web based system becomes even more important if it is used to share information between two or more hospitals. Healthcare facilities in different geographic locations can share relevant data quickly if they use an internet based HIS.

For instance, a hospital may decide to shift a patient to another facility for better care or specialty treatment. If the present hospital has updated all the patient information in their HIS, the second hospital can instantly access the information needed for treatment. The medical history of the patient will always be stored within these facilities and can be readily retrieved if the patient is not able to provide it himself.

Implementation and support – Change is always resisted by humans and deploying or upgrading a hospital information system may also invite employee criticism. It is always better to ask the vendor for support in an implementation and request for staff training. Choose a vendor that offers 24×7 support via the telephone or web, so your hospital staff can immediately access support. Some hospitals also consult their staff while making a purchasing decision, as the staff may be able to tell you something new or inform you about things others may have overlooked

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