ExecutiveChronicles.com | 7 Healthcare Terms to Know in 2020 | The healthcare world can be a complicated place for the uninitiated. There are devices and procedures and terminology that, for those who are unfamiliar, can be confusing or even intimidating.
The more you know when you step into this world, the better. With that in mind, we want to help by explaining some common terms you hear a lot in healthcare today. These terms are extremely relevant in 2020 and are things that, if you haven’t already heard them used, you’ll hear about soon.
The goal is to explain them in a way that is easy to understand, even if they are complicated terms. This will enable you to better interact with the healthcare system, which is always a good thing. Here are seven healthcare terms to know in 2020.
Healthcare in 2020 has been dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic and a lot of terminology has hit the news media that may be unfamiliar to the non-medical professional. This is the first of a few of the terms on this list that are pandemic-related.
As the medical world races to find a vaccine (more on that below) to stem the tide of the coronavirus, all the possible medications must first pass clinical trials. This means that researchers and scientists test the drugs on actual people to make sure that they are effective in their stated purpose and safe for human use. Clinical trials have different stages, and when a new medication or drug has achieved the goals of the clinical trials, it’s deemed safe and effective.
This is another term you may be hearing quite a bit in news coverage of COVID-19. Many people are suggesting that convalescent plasma therapy may help patients recover from the virus. This treatment involves taking plasma from a person who has recovered (convalesced) from COVID and giving that plasma to a person currently with the disease. Plasma is part of the blood that circulates in your arteries and veins. Plasma is the fluid–minus red and white blood cells, platelets, and other types of cells–that contains water, salts, enzymes, and antibodies to viruses. It makes up about 55% of your blood.
The idea behind using plasma is that plasma of a recovered patient contains antibodies that may help fight the virus. When these antibodies are given to someone with an active viral infection, the plasma and its antibodies can help speed up the recovery time or diminish the effects of the disease.
Scientists are currently studying this therapy in relation to COVID and have not yet proved that it works for this virus. It has, however, worked in the past for other viruses such as the hemorrhagic fever virus Ebola.
EHR stands for electronic health records. It is a digital version of a patient’s medical chart. These charts, which have always been on paper in the past, contain all the information medical professionals need to know about a patient when that patient walks into the room. It can include medical information such as medical history, vital signs, drug allergies, and lab results. It is the key to new doctors knowing what is going on or for doctors to catch up after a period of time.
EHR is a technologically advanced type of medical chart that stores all this information in a safer manner, digitally. It also allows for these charts to be easier to read and sort to find the key information. They translate between offices quickly and securely and, best of all, can be updated in real-time without the need for a nurse or a doctor.
Epidemiology is the study of all things related to the spread of disease through a specified population. This can include things like how it is spread, why it spreads, what the effects are, and the best ways to stop it. Epidemiologists have studied all types of diseases to improve public health from polio to AIDS to COVID-19.
Doctors and scientists who study epidemiology have come to the forefront during this global pandemic. These are the people who are trying to figure out how the virus spreads, what steps we can take to prevent the spread, and advising both politicians and the public on best practices to keep the virus as under control as possible.
HIPAA is a term you often hear in healthcare, usually in the context of information that cannot be shared due to HIPPA regulations. This is an acronym for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. The law stipulates a few things related to healthcare insurance but is most well-known for modernizing the rules around how healthcare organizations deal with patient’s sensitive data.
HIPAA goes into detail about how the industry is legally required to treat a patient’s “personally identifiable data.” This means that any type of healthcare information that can be connected to a specific person must be kept private and secure in accordance with this law. The law also sets forth stiff penalties for non-compliance.
This stands for software as a medical device. It refers to any software program that acts as a medical device on its own without needing another medical device to function. SaMDs often come in the form of apps that are used in conjunction with smartphones, wearable technology, or tablets.
This software turns mobile devices and computers into medical devices. It is helping make healthcare more portable, allowing healthcare professionals to monitor real-time data more efficiently from remote locations, and giving patients more ownership over their healthcare.
Real-world examples that are already in use in the healthcare industry of SaMD technology include things like an app that helps calculate drug dosages based on uploaded data or software used to analyze MRIs or x-rays for minute details. For a deeper look at SaMD, Orthogonal has a helpful guide.
The search for a COVID-19 vaccine is a hot topic in late 2020. To understand what a vaccine is, you must first understand what it isn’t. It is not a medicine that treats or cures a virus after someone gets it. A vaccine is designed to prevent patients from getting sick in the first place.
A vaccine does this by injecting medicine that includes some of what causes the virus into a patient. These virus pieces have been modified so that the virus cannot replicate in you and you won’t get ill from the virus. But these parts of the vaccine encourage your body to make antibodies to fight the virus. These antibodies then fight the virus off when you come into contact with it.
Healthcare has many complex terms, but these are some of the most important ones to know in 2020. They help you understand the technology and the medicine behind healthcare today and what is going on around the COVID-19 pandemic. With this knowledge, you should understand what you hear better when listening to healthcare coverage on TV or dealing with it in your own life.