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HHRIM 2104: Information Systems and Technology in Health Care

Contact hours: 42hrs

Purpose This course is designed to equip the Health Records and Information Management learner with necessary knowledge; skills to enable them use a computer in managing health information services

Expected Learning Outcomes By the end of the course unit the learners should be able to: -

i. Describe the concept of computers

ii. Differentiate between manual and electronic data processing

iii. Discuss systems applications in health records management

iv. Describe telemedicine

Content Computer technology: Introduction to computer hardware, CPU architecture, input devices. Operating systems: Windows, NT, Windows servers, Unix, multitasking, peripheral components. Storage devices: magnetic and optical media Systems applications: Application software: word processors, database management, spreadsheets, power points, statistical packages SPSS, Epi Info, Stata, SAS, User Interfaces. Electronic Health Records: Radiology Picture Archiving and Collection (PAC) system, VTP, Electronic appointment systems.

References

i) Barasa M.K. and Wambugu. S 2004, Strengthening the health information system:

Kenyan experience

ii) Ministry of health 1999, Health Information Management System report

iii) Ministry of Medical Services 2009, Health Information Management Unit

Chapter 1: Introduction to computers

Definition of Electronic computer

A computer is a collection of electronic devices used to process data. Earlier computers were massive, special-purpose machines that only big institutions such as governments and universities could afford. They were used to perform complex numerical computations, such as planning the missile trajectories. Although computers were certainly quite effective in such operations, it soon became clear that they could be helpful for performing a number of tasks.

In 1964, IBM introduced its mainframe computer (system/360). This became very popular and as a result, IBM became the standard against which other computer manufactures and their systems would be benchmarked for many years to come. By 1980s, introduced the personal computer (PC)

Organization of a computer system

Any computer, regardless of its size, shape, or usage, is related to four logical parts:

Hardware

Software

Data

People

a. Hardware is the part of the computer that can be touched and seen. It’s made up of interconnected electronic devices that control the operations of the computer.

b. Software is a group of instructions that tell the hardware what to do. These instructions are also known as programs. Each program is written for a specific purpose. E.g. Ms Outlook is popular software used for managing e-mails, calendar, etc.

c. Data is the unprocessed set of information, which the computer can manipulate. When processed, data becomes information. E.g. the pay details for all employees are data. After a computer processes them and generates pay slips, this becomes information. A computer file is simply a set of data or program instructions.

d. People interacting with computers can be end users, programmers, system analysts etc.

Computer Hardware

The internal components of a computer’s hardware can be classified into the following categories:

Processor

Memory

Input and output devices

Storage devices

a. Processor It’s conceptually the brain of the computer. It organizes and carries out instructions that initiate either from the user or from the software. The processor usually consists of one or more microprocessors, which are made up of silicon or other material. The processor is often known by the name of the central processing unit (CPU).

b. Memory

The area of memory can be visualized as the computer’s electronic scratchpad. A computer loads a program into the memory, where it is executed. Data used by the program used by the program is also loaded into the memory.

The most typical example of a computer’s memory is the Random Access Memory (RAM). RAM is volatile i.e. it needs a constant power supply and its contents vanishes when the computer is shut down. The amount of memory a computer has greatly affects the speed of the computer. The higher the memory, generally the better is the computer performance. The amount of memory is measured in bits or bytes. Bit stands for binary digit which means either a 0 or a 1. A byte is a group of 8 bits.

Types of memory

a. Cache memory This is a high speed memory whose speed compares to that of the C.P.U. It’s used to interface the slow communicating main memory to the C.P.U. It acts as a buffer that receives the data, instructions and/or information from the main memory, at the speed of the main memory and remits them to the C.P.U at the speed of the C.P.U and vice versa. The cache memory is usually used in large computer systems, which ever the case it speeds up the rate of processing by easing communication between the CPU and the main memory, i.e. movement of data and instructions to the CPU and remitting back to the main memory of the immediate results.

b. Bubble Memory This type of memory represents data and instructions within it in terms of magnetic principles i.e. polarized spots (bubbles) to give binary representation of data, instructions and/or information. A bubble represents a 1 while the absence of a bubble represents a 0. The bubble memories are very expensive with limited but can withstand adverse conditions e.g. dust and the memory cells do not loose data when they are de-energized by switching off the power. They are convenient and easy to develop. They are suitable where the internal (main) memory is to be expanded limitlessly, i.e. the virtual storage technique, where high speed access is necessary for transferring small manageable data or program segments, what is described as pages, into the main memory in turn for execution by the C.P.U.

c. Holographic Memory This memory uses the principles of light to store data, instructions and information; hence it’s also described as optical memory. The data, instructions and or information stored are in terms of smear of dots on light sensitive plate. These memories are non-volatile and have got vast storage capacity.

d. Core memory This is an internal store, which is made up of small magnetic rings, which are magnetic rings, which are magnetized by the wires threaded on them. This ferrite core forms the memory cells that are the basis of storage. The polarity of these magnets are set using currents to represent data, instruction or information in terms of 1’s and 0’s. The core store are permanent, the set polarities do not change even if the power is switched off, unless current is passed in the opposite direction.

e. Semi-conductor Memory Are the most used memory by current computers. They are cheaper and faster than magnetic core memory. They are also available in a small board. The drawback of semi-conductor memory is that it is volatile and loses its contents in the event of power failure but this can be overcomed by having back-up power units.

Semi-conductor memories have greatly replaced the core memories because: -

They are small and occupy comparatively less space

Their access time is low i.e. they are fast for they operate purely on electronic principles and hence reliable

They are inexpensive to produce hence lower cost

Generally, consume comparatively less power

Main Memory Classification

The main memory can be classified into two memory sections the RAM and the ROM.

a. RAM (Random Access Memory) RAM is volatile i.e. it needs constant power supply and loses its contents when the computer is shut down. Functions of RAM

It stores data and instruction awaiting processing

Stores the instructions being obeyed or whose parts have been obeyed by the computer

Stores the immediate results, the results of computer working/calculations, before being communicated to their recipients (computer users) through the output unit

b. ROM (Read Only Memory)

The ROM is non-volatile i.e. its contents remain intact even if the power is switched off.

Functions of ROM

Its stores the data and instructions that is necessary for the normal functioning of the computer system hardware. (ROM stores system data and interactions)

It stores the control programs that are necessary for the initial activation of the hardware on power switch on.

Concept of Virtual Storage

Computer’s memory is used to store data and instruction. Often user data and instructions may overcome the RAM capacity. One common solution to this problem is to design the program and/or data, in such a way that the programs and data are subdivided into small manageable units described as segments, modules or pages that can be conveniently maintained in the memory.

The pages are then stored in a direct access store from where these pages can be swapped into the main memory automatically under the operating system routine known as the paging supervisor. Individual segments are called into memory obeyed by the computer and the next segment from the direct access store swapped with the completed segment in memory i.e. when a segment is transferred from the direct access store it replaces the segment that previously occupied the memory.

The process continues until all the modules in the direct store are executed by the computer. One the part of the user (programmer, the program developer) the computer memory is expanded limitlessly, and their big programs can run within the available internal memory without the memory size limitation. This is the concept known as virtual storage.

Operating

System

S1

S2

size limitation. This is the concept known as virtual storage. Operating System S1 S2 S3 Program

S3

size limitation. This is the concept known as virtual storage. Operating System S1 S2 S3 Program

Program

Segments

(DAS) e.g.

Buffers:

This is a special purpose temporary memory location, used during input/output (I/O) or processing to hold data and/or instruction temporarily between communicating devices/ elements. They are used to counterbalance the speed differences between the communicating elements, because buffers accept data instruction or information at the speed of the sending module/element and remit them at the speed of the receiving module.

Registers:

These are temporary storage location within the CPU. They are used to hold data and instructions temporarily during processing. They are more costly than the memory and their contents can be handled by the computer in faster mode as compared to the main memory. The registers are special purpose storage locations usually used by the control units, during the fetch and execute cycle, to store control influences and instructions and by the ALU to store data.

Computer Input devices

Input devices accept data and instructions from the user.

Keyboard

The keyboards are used to type in data and/or instructions to the computer as input in a form that the computer can understand i.e. in terms of electronic signals representing the digital bits, the 1’s and 0’s.

Document readers

These are input devices that directly sense the data and/or instructions from some documents and then convey them to go as computer input directly in terms of electronic signals and with no requirement for verification because the transcription process is not involved.

Optical Character Reader

Characters are formed on to the document using a typewriter or computer printer in a special type font. Characters such as alphabetic, numeric or special characters are formed in a manner which is both human and machine sensible.

Optical character recognition (OCR) is a data capture technique which enables the computer to read printed or handwritten documents-directly.

Optical Mark Reader (OMR)

The documents are preprinted with predefined data positions. These positions can then be marked by e.g. pencil shade. The marked position can then be sensed by the OMR to transfer the pre-determined data value to go as computer input.

The OMR use the principle of light to sense the positional marks, i.e. the marks are interpreted using reflected light by these positional marks, and conveys them to go as computer input in terms of electronic signals. The OMR are used in marking multiple choice questions, questionnaires, insurance premium collection etc.

Magnetic Ink Character Reader (MICR)

The document characters are typed or printed using ink containing particles of iron II oxide, which gives them magnetic property. After forming the characters onto the document, the magnetic ink encoded characters are magnetized by passing the document under a strong magnetic field.

Mouse

This is an input device used as alternative to a keyboard, to provide a direct on-line input. The mouse is a box like device with sensor buttons and a ball that slides it on the flat surface. It controls the cursor to move about the screen as desired.

Light pen

It’s like a pen like device, which is light sensitive and is hand held. They are used as design aids. It provides a direct input mode. The light pen can be used in conjunction with a graphic VDU, which is able to sense light shining on the screen using special hardware.

Touch Sensitive Panels

Is used as input method to replace the use of a light pen i.e. the touch sensitive panels are an alternative to light pen. The finger is used to select the options instead of the light pen. This method is used in conjunction to the VDU, which is able to sense the touched points on the screen.

Joystick

This is used to play computer games on domestic computers. The game is played by joystick controlling the cursor movement on the screen.

Digitizers

These are input devices that convert graphical drawings or images on the paper or other material into digital data and convey them to as computer input.

Bar codes

In bar codes, data is represented by bars of different breadth that alternate the bar and spaces to represent data in terms of 1’s and 0 are using some character codes, which represents data in terms of binary notation.

Other input devices include: scanners, voice input, badge readers etc.

Voice recognition

The facility to control a computer program or carry out data entry through spoken commands via a microphone connected to a sound card.

Video capture card

The video capture card records and stores video sequences (motion video)]

Digital camera

A digital camera captures and stores still images in a camera’s memory until they can be

transferred to a personal computer.

Touch screen

The touch screen is a transparent; pressure-sensitive covering that is attached to the screen of the monitor. Uses make selections and control programs by pressing on the screen. Although touch screens are simple to use, they are comparatively expensive and require special software to operate

Selecting input devices

It is appropriate to select an appropriate means of data entry in order to ensure that any

computerized system works as efficiently as possible. The collection of data on a very large scale, for example, usually requires an approach that involves automating the process as far as

possible.

The selection of input depends on: -

Volume-some input devices are unsuitable for dealing with large volumes of data.

Speed if large volume of data needs to be entered, speed and accuracy may be an important consideration for many business applications.

Accuracy-it is essential to ensure that data entry is completely accurate.

Complexity of data-some methods are unsuitable for entering data of a complex nature

Cost-although some methods offer high levels of speed and accuracy, an organization may be unwilling or unable to purchase the hardware and software required. In such cases an alternative means of data entry may be required

Frequency of data entry. Some types of data entry may be carried out on an infrequent or ad hoc basis. In these cases, the acquisition of new or specialized input devices may not be justifiable.

Computer Output

The result of any computer processing is known as output. Output from a process may be of two forms; it may be in a form that is human readable/understandable i.e. either printed or drawn, or if the information is required for subsequent process run, it may be stored temporarily on machine-readable media.

The quality of a computer system can be accessed by the quality of the output it generates. The essence of designing and implementing a data processing system is to generate desirable output. The quality, validity and usefulness of the output is influenced by the output facility used.

Factors that determine the actual choice of a computer output

Suitability to the application

The speed at which the output is required

Whether a printed version is required

The volume of data

Cost of the method chosen as compared with the benefits to be derived.

Output devices

i) Printers This is a device that provides the hard copy output, which is permanent and hence desirable for the information or results of the computer working can be maintained for future reference and/or the information conveniently distributed to reach many recipients.

Classification of printers

The printers can be classified as character, line and page printers depending on how they produce the document prints

Character printers

These provide one character print at a time hence comparatively slow. They are less costly as compared to line or page printers. They are used with the slow communicating terminals or stand-alone systems, which serve single users at a time.

Line printers

These printers provide one whole line print at a time, hence relatively more expensive than character printer but less costly as compared to the page printers. They are faster than character printers but slower than the page printers. They are mostly connected to the mini computers and mainframe computers where the speed of printing is a real necessity for it is a shared resource in such instances.

i) Page printers

These provide one whole page print at a time hence faster than both character and line printers. The page printers are the most expensive type of printers for their speed and are usually connected to the mainframe computers where a variety of the computer users are to be served when producing their information from the computer memory at an appreciable time scales.

ii) Graph plotters

These are output devices that produce graphical output e.g. diagrams, maps etc. The commonly available plotters are the flat bed plotter and drum plotter. Graph plotters are applied basically in Computer Aided Design (CAD) and architectural designs.

iii) Magnetic media

The computer output/information from the computer memory can also be directed into magnetic

storage media e.g. the tape or disk, instead of being printed or displayed.

Such output directed to any of the magnetic storage media is thus magnetically coded. This method is used where such results/ output of processing is to be stored for future retrieval /or further processing.

iv) Voice Output

The information from the computer memory which is in electronic form is transformed to wave forms, through various specialized additional circuitry, for the recipients of such information to hear. Voice is

useful where reading is not necessary or is impossible and fast output is required, though the output is non-permanent and may be boring for prolonged output. Voice output is applied e.g. as learning aids, in emergency situations for messages, in answering services e.g. post office talking clock

v) Microform

Computer output to microfilm (COM), also known as computer output microform, is often used to achieve large quantities of information for future reference. Information is processed via a personal computer and sent directly to a device that produces microfilm negatives.

A related technology is known as document image processing (DIP). Documents are treated as pictures or images and stored directly to compact disc or tape.

v) Visual Display Unit

This is an output device in the form of a cathode ray tube which can display readable information on the

tube.

CLASSIFICATION OF COMPUTERS

The most common classification of computers is as follows: -

Supercomputer

Mainframe

Minicomputer

Microcomputer or personal computer

i) Supercomputer

These are the most powerful type of computers. They can process huge amounts of data very fast (supercomputers can perform about one trillion calculations per second). Scientists construct models for complex processes and simulate them on a supercomputer. Supercomputers are very expensive and

consume heavy amounts of electricity.

ii) Mainframe

These are used in large organizations, which need frequent access to common information. Supercomputers are rarely used by private organizations or for common use. Mainframes are the largest commonly used e.g. in banks, airlines, insurance companies, stock exchanges, foreign exchange markets, etc.

Typically, employees work at computer terminals. (A terminal is a keyboard and screen connected to the mainframe. A terminal does not have its own CPU or storage (Dumb terminal)). All terminals are controlled by a mainframe computer that handles the input, output and processing needs of all the terminals connected to it. They are quite big in size and can occupy entire rooms or even a floor of a building.

They are mainly used by governments for maintaining people’s demographic data, tax information etc. Many big stores use mainframes to track sales, update inventory position etc.

iii) Minicomputer

These are called mini, because they were smaller in size as compared to computers of those days (e.g.

Mainframes). However, by today’s standards, we can call them giants. Minicomputers are considered to be somewhere between mainframes and personal computers.

Similar to mainframes, minicomputers can process large inputs and outputs as compared to personal computers. They are well suited to the needs of quite a few organizations and companies because they are cheaper than mainframes, but have some features of mainframes.

iv) Personal computers

These computers are also referred to as microcomputer. The term refers to computers, which are usually found at homes, workplaces and classrooms. Personal computers appear in many forms, sizes, and brands. The popularity of the PCs is due to many reasons, chief of these being their economical nature, ease of use and availability, and rapidly declining costs of hardware devices, such as memory, I/O etc. The capability of the PC continuously increases, with simultaneous decrease in costs. This

makes the PC an extremely viable option for individuals as well as all kinds of organizations.

Variations of the PC are the notebooks (also called as laptops), and handheld computers (also called as palmtops).

Applications of computers

These days, computers are such flexible tools that most people use them everyday. Some examples of this are:

Office workers use computers to write emails/memos, maintain employee records, create budgets, communicate with co-workers, find information, manage projects etc.

Almost all business people who work away from office also use computers. For instance, salespeople use computers to manage accounts and make presentations.

The banks, post offices, government offices, telephone companies and so many other parties use computers extensively.

Science

Scientists use computers to develop theories, gather data and test results, and exchange information with colleagues. Scientists also use computers for simulating complicated events, such as predicting rainfalls or change in weather patterns. Computers help tremendously in space exploration. Satellites have beamed back to the earth a great amount of information about the solar system and the cosmos.

Education

Computers have truly revolutionized the area of education. Computers can be found everywhere-from classrooms to museums and from libraries to labs. Students use computers to create science projects, project reports and gather information from the internet.

In the libraries, computers are used to read articles and other materials of interest from magazines and journals hosted on the computer. They can be used for distance education programs as well.

Medicine

Computers are used extensively in this area and healthcare. The usage spans from diagnosing diseases to and monitoring patients to controlling the robotic movements of surgical assistants.

Legal practice

The lawyers, attorneys and all others concerned with the legal profession also make extensive use of computers. Attorneys can quickly browse through huge collections of information for previous judgments and historical evidences. Attorneys working on portable computers (called laptops or notebooks) can make their own notes.

Manufacturing

Factories use robotic arms to carry out physical work, which is dangerous or monotonous. Manufacturing with computer and robotics is called Computer-Aided Manufacturing (CAM). Computers take over the entire production process, from design to manufacturing.

Entertainment

Computers are heavily used in all the areas of entertainment, such as movies, live shows, and dramas, creating and recording music.

History and Generations of Computers

The term computer generation is used quite frequently. This term refers to the historical classification and the milestones that have occurred during the development of the computing devices over the last few decades.

Zeroth Generation of computers (1642-1945)

Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) is credited with the distinction of building a working calculator. Pascal had devised this calculator when he was only 19 to help his father, who worked as a tax collector. This calculator could only perform additions and subtractions.Later, the famous German mathematician Baron Gottfried Wilhelm Von Leibniz

(1646-1716) developed another mechanical calculator, which could perform multiplication and division. In 1834, Charles Babbage (1792-1871) built a machine called difference engine. This machine had a mechanical design where wheels, gears, cogs, were used. This computer was slow and unreliable. Later Babbage improved on his basic ideas to come up with another machine, called the analytical engine. The analytical engine was a far much superior, general purpose, computing machine. It provided five important components, which are a part of even the modern computer: an input unit, a processor, a memory unit, a control unit, and an output unit.

First generation computers (1945-1955)

The world’s first real computer was the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Calculator (ENIAC) built in 1946 in Pennsylvania, USA. ENIAC used vacuum tube devices. The main purpose behind ENIAC was to predict the missile trajectories.

ENIAC had a lot of limitations, including a very small amount of memory, slow operations. The programming was only done in machine language, which could be termed the first generation language.

These computers used big physical devices in their circuitry and hence were very big in physical size. They consumed a lot of power generating a lot of heat and hence non-reliable as the circuitry components were prone to failure.

Second Generation of Computers (1955-1965)

Although the first generation computers demonstrated that they could perform arithmetic and logical operations successfully, there were major problems associated with them. Most notably, these computers were large in size, generated a lot of heat, were slow and needed programming in machine language, which was quite cumbersome to learn and use.

The second generation computers used transistors (invented at the Bell Labs USA in 1948). Transistors offered an alternative, which was both cheap and effective. Transistors are quite small compared with the vacuum tubes, and work far more efficiently without generating heat.

The PDP-1 computer was the first major machine based on the transistor, and was launched in 1961 by Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC). PDP-1 was called as minicomputer, because it was small compared to other computers of those times.

International Business Machines (IBM) came up with their computers, most notably, the 1401 and the 7094. Popular computer programming languages such as ALGOL, FORTRAN and COBOL emerged during this generation.

Third Generation Computers (1965-1980)

The integrated circuit (IC) was the major milestone in the third generation of computer history. An IC contains a number of transistors on a single silicon chip. Thus a single IC can perform the job of dozens of transistors (these days, millions of transistors). This meant additional processing power with reduction in the overall size of the computer.

IBM soon integrated their two highly successful computers, the 7094 and the 1401 and bought them under the umbrella of system/360. The major achievement of system/360 was the possibility of multiprogramming i.e. allowing multiple programs to reside in the memory of the computer at the same time, and executing them one after the other.

Fourth Generation of Computers

The fourth generation computers were a modification of the third generation computer’s technology. They use complex circuitry, an enhancement of the IC technology of the third generation computers. The design of this generation computer is based on large scale integration (LSI) of circuitry and very large scale integration (VLSI) of circuitry.

Fifth Generation Computers

The design of these computers was based on the VLSI technology, the microchip technology that gave rise to smaller computers, known as the micro computers in use today. Examples of microcomputers are IBM PC’s (IBM personal computers), BBC micro etc. The micro computers are usually described as PCs or stand alone or desk top computers because they were designed to primarily serve single person at a time, though the trend is to have micro computers that can support more than one person at a time.

NB:

Research shows that the trend in the computer’s technological revolution is that there is: -

Continual decrease in computer size

Improved speed and power of processing

Decrease in computer and its related facilities’ cost

Number of components per circuit (IC) greatly increased, over 500000 physical elements e.g. transistors, capacitors, diodes etc per chip. (IC)

Types of computers

There are a variety of computers, with a variety of their operational characteristics. The computers can be classified in many useful ways. These can be classified as under: -

a) By the types of data which they can manipulate: -

i) Digital computers

ii) Analogue computers

b) By the purpose for which they are designed: -

i) General purpose computers

ii) Special purpose or dedicated computers

c) A mixture of data handling types: -

i) Hybrid computers

d) Scientific and business computers

e) On the basis of price, size and capabilities

i) Mainframe

ii) Minicomputers

iii) Micro computers

iv) Personal computers (pcs)

Chapter 2: Computer software

Software Systems Applications Software software Operating Utility Development General Application System
Software
Systems
Applications
Software
software
Operating
Utility
Development
General
Application
System
Programs
Purpose
specific
software
software

Software

Software is defined, as series of detailed instructions that control the operation of computer system.

Software exists as programs that are developed by computer

programmers.

There are two main categories of software

System software

Application software System software

Manages and controls the operation of the computer system as it performs tasks on behalf of the user

This is a set of programs that coordinates the activities and functions of the hardware and other programs throughout the computer system.

The combination of a hardware configuration and systems software is known as a computer system platform System software consists of three basic categories

- Operation system

- Development programs

- Utility programs

Operating systems

Software that interacts with the h/w of the computer in order to manage and direct the computer’s resources

This is a set of programs that controls the computer hardware and acts as an interface with applications

The operating system can control one or more computers, or they can allow multiple users interact with one computer.

Combinations of OS

Single computer with single user:- this system is commonly used in a person computer or a handheld computer that allows one user at a time

Single computer with multiple users:- This is a typical of larger, mainframe computers that can accommodate hundreds or thousands of people, all using the computer at the same time\

Multiple computers:-this is typical of a network of computers, such as a home network with several computers attached or a large computer network with hundreds of computers attached around the world

Special purpose computers:- This system is typical of a number of special purpose computers, such as those that control sophisticated military aircraft, the space shuttle, and some home appliances The basic functions of the operating system include: -

Control access to storage devices for example disk drives

Co-ordinate and control peripheral devices e.g printers.

Allow users to input data and issue instructions e.g allowing data to be entered via keyboard.

Co-ordinate and control the operation of programs e.g by scheduling processor time

Manage the computer memory.

Perform file management e.g by allowing users to create and delete files

Deal with errors e.g by displaying a message to the user if a fault is detected within a h/w component.

Providing networking capability

Operating system can be described as text based or graphical. A text-based operating system uses a command line interpreter (CLT) to accept instructions from the user. Command line interpreter (CLT)

Passes instructions from a user to a computer program as instructions from a user in the form of brief statements entered via keyboard.

Graphical user interpreter (GUI) - Provides a means for a user to control a computer program using a mouse to issue instructions using menus and icons.

Network software (NOS)

In general the network operating system (NOS) used by an organization will provide the majorities of facilities required to support workgroup computing.e.g the n o s will allow a network manager to define to define a group of users belonging to a particular workgroup.

Services of N O S

A centralized storage space can be created on the network system for exclusive use of workgroup members. The security features of NOS can be used to restrict access to documents and other data by those outside of the workgroup. The workgroup can be given network privileges that allow individual member to access to resources and facilities that are not normally available to others

Examples: - windows N T, UNIX, NOVELL NETWARE

Utility programs

These provide a range of tools that support the operation and management of a computer system. Programs that monitor system performance or provide security controls are examples of utility programs.

Application software

This consists of programs that help users solve particular computing problems.

These are a set of programs that enable users to perform specific information processing activities. Application software can be divided into two broad categories

General purpose

Application specific General purpose

General-purpose applications describe programs that can be used to carry out a wide range of common tasks. A word processor for example, is capable of producing a variety of documents that are suitable for many different purposes. This type of application is often referred to as productivity software, since it helps improve efficiency.

Business tasks carried out in the office

1. Document production and graphics software- This involves the creation of various internal and external documents, including letters, reports, invoices, notes and minutes of meetings e.g text editors, word processors, and desktop publishing packages.

2. Processing numerical information using spreadsheets All organizations require the means to store, organize and Analyze numerical data. The spreadsheet program represents the most common means of carrying out these tasks

3. Storage and retrieval of using database: - All organizations require the means to store, organize and retrieve information. Electronic databases packages represent the most common means of carrying out these tasks

4.

Multimedia software: - Multimedia involves the user interacting with a computer using media such as text, sound, animation and video. Its main business applications are computer-based training and customer service in retail applications

5. Sending and retrieving information using the internet and intranets: - This describes the activities involving internal and external communications such as email and the use of web browsers to find information on the World Wide Web.

Application specific Describes programs intended to serve a specific purpose or carry out a clearly defined processing task. E.g. payroll

Document production software One of the most common activities in a business organization is the production of documents for external and internal use.

Internal documents can include inter-office memos, reports and summaries such as minutes of meetings

External documents can include invoices, sales, brochures and correspondence. A modern view of document production sees technology as used in three basic ways:

Word processing

Desktop publishing

Document management

Word-processing: - is concerned with entering or editing text, with emphasis on the content of the document. It allows the production of simple documents but gives limited control over layout.

Desktop publishing: -is concerned with the overall appearance of documents, placing a great deal of emphasis on features that provide control over the layout and presentation of a document

Document management: -involves documents such as company procedures, which are circulated to a large number of people in an organization.

Word-processing

A word processor provides the ability to enter, edit, store and print text. Word processing packages allow users to alter the layout of documents and often provide a variety of formatting tools

Features

a) Editing text:- all word processing programs allow users to enter, edit, copy, move, and delete text. This process of entering or correcting text is known as editing

b)

Word wrap:- as users type text and move towards the end of a line, the program automatically moves to the beginning of a new line. The spacing between words and characters is also adjusted so that the appearance of the text is improved.

c)

Justification: - a word processor allows the user to control text alignment, that is, the layout of the margins on the page.

d)

Block operations: - all word processors (packages) allow users to manipulate blocks of text in a number of ways. Once a block of text has been marked, it can be moved, deleted, copied or formatted. Word processors also allow these blocks to be cut and pasted

e)

Search and replace: -programs such as word for windows allow the user to search an entire document for a specific word or phrase. Once the text has been located, it can be deleted or replaced with something else. Searches can be conditional, where the word or phrase must appear exactly as specified or unconditional, where any occurrence of the text will be found.

f)

Type/font styles: - Most word processing packages allow users to specify the style, font and point size of text. Style refers to text effects such as bold, italics and underlined. The type face used in a document is referred to as the font

g)

Page layout: - word processing packages allow users to specify the layout of the pages in the document. This is done by setting the sizes of the top, bottom and left and right margins of the page and by selecting the size of the paper that will be used

h)

Headers and footers: - a header is a piece of text that appears at the top of every pages of the document. Headers are typically used to print a chapter heading or title at the top of each page. Footer appears at the bottom of each page. Footers are typically used to print page numbers at the bottom of every page. Headers and footers can be seen in many publications, including newspapers, books and magazines.

i)

Mail merge: - packages such as word for windows allow sets of personalized letters to be produced by merging information taken from a separate data file with a standardized ‘form’ document. Example a database could be used to hold the names and addresses a number of business clients. A standard letter could be produced with blanks where the name and address of the client are meant to appear. When the mail merge process begins, each name and address would be inserted in the document and printed. Mail merge is not restricted to names and addresses; any kind of data can be merged into a standard document. This allows mail merge to be used for applications ranging from the production of invoices to personalized newsletters.

j)

Import/export of data: - many word processors allow documents to be saved in a number of formats. This allows users to produces a document, save it to disk and then load into, for example, a desktop publishing program for further enhancement.

a) Exporting: -The process of saving a file in a format compatible with another software package

b) Importing: -the process of loading a file created with another package.

k)

Graphics and tables: - Modern word processors allow users to incorporate graphics and tables of figures into their documents. E.g. word can import pictures from a range of sources e.g. GIF, TIFF, PIC, GEM and PCX

l)

Columns:- Many packages allow users to generate columns within their documents. These can be used in a number of ways, including producing a newspaper- like layout for newsletters and other documents.

m)

Spellchecker and thesaurus: - Most packages allow users to check spelling of every word in a document. When an error is detected, the program can suggest alternative spellings and make any corrections automatically. The thesaurus function found in most modern packages can be used to suggest synonyms and antonyms for a highlighted word or phrase.

n)

Multiple windows: -the majority of packages allow users to work on more than one document at a time. Each document is displayed in a window on the screen and the user can move between

windows using the mouse or by pressing special keys. This allows users to carry out a number of useful activities, such as copying a block of text from one document to another, without having to open and then close the documents in order.

o) Macros: -a macro is a sequence of instructions that can be used to automate a complex or repetitive task.

p) Auto correct: - this feature attempts to correct the spelling as the user types. This corrects common misspelling mistakes.

q) Tabs:-special markers, known as tabs, can be set so that users can move to specific columns in the document with the use of the TAB key. This allows tables of numbers or columns of text to be created quickly and easily.

r) Print preview:- the print preview feature displays a document exactly as it will be printed, enabling users to check and correct the document without making unnecessary printouts.

s) Drawing and graphics:- many packages provide a variety of drawing tools, allowing users to add lines, shapes or graphic files to their documents.

t) Tables: - many packages allow users to produce tables containing a specified number of rows and columns. Tables created in this way often provide some of the functionality of a spreadsheet program, although this is often limited.

Graphics programs

Graphics packages can be divided into the following basic categories: -

Drawing (or paint) packages

Design packages

Presentation packages

Diagramming packages

Photo-editing programs

Drawing programs

Paint programs serve the same purpose as a sketchpad or easel and enable users to produce drawing using a variety of different techniques. A combination of tools allows users to create drawings made up of freehand lines and regular shapes. Among the tools available are the following: -

A palette of drawing tools can be used to mimic the effects of drawing with different materials, including pens, spray cans, brushes and charcoal.

Selection tools can be used to copy, erase or resize sections of a drawing

Painting tools let users apply shading and colors to areas or shapes

Text tools allow users to add text to drawing. Users specify the typeface, size, color and style of the text

Special tools provide a range of sophisticated features. A color replacement tool, for example, can be used to change one color for another within specified section of the image.

Diagramming software

The need to produce a wide variety of business-related charts and diagrams has resulted in the emergence of numerous diagramming packages. Majority of these packages assume little technical knowledge and rely on menus, icons and palettes of tools in order to construct diagrams.

In order to produce a chart or diagram, users select shapes and symbols from a library of prepared materials.

Diagramming tools such as Visio tend to offer relatively limited number of stencils from which users can select. However, all packages cater for a range of common business diagrams. A typical package will provide stencils that enable users to produce flow charts, office layouts, organizational charts, network diagrams, project timelines and block diagrams

Photo-editing software

The growth in the use of optical scanners and video capture devices has resulted in a need for tools that can be used to manipulate photographic images. Photo-editing packages enable users capture, view, edits scanned images.

Although the majority of photo-editing programs provide many of the features found in paint packages, most provide more sophisticated tools intended especially for use with scanned images. Two typical examples include:

Capture features enable users to acquire images directly from an optical scanner attached to the computer system, removing the need for the user to control two separate programs

Filters can be used to apply a range of special effects to an image. E.g. they can sharpen a blurred image or alter brightness and contrast.

Processing Numerical Information Using Spreadsheets

A spreadsheet is a program designed to store and manipulate values, numbers and text in an efficient and useful way.

Modeling:

Applications of spreadsheets

Financial application. Common applications include the production of cashflow forecasts,

accounting statements, invoices, purchase orders, sales orders, quotations, managing expenses

and

project management

Modeling and simulation. Modeling involves creating a representation of an existing situation or set of circumstances, while simulation involves predicting new situations or circumstances. In

both cases, a model is produced that provides a numerical representation of the situation or circumstances being studied.

o What if? Analysis: this describes the ability to see the predicted effect of a change made to a numerical model

Statistical analysis. All spreadsheet programs provide a wide range of tools that can be used to analyze numerical information in a number of ways. Examples

o

Goal seeking: in a spreadsheet, goal seeking describes a way of automatically changing the values in a formula until a desired result is achieved.

o

Many programs offer a descriptive statistics feature that can be used to generate various summaries relating to a block of data. The spreadsheet performs a simple analysis and automatically creates a set of descriptive statistics.

Features of a spreadsheet

Automatic formulas: many programs allow users to enter part of a formula, completing the rest of it automatically. The auto sum feature for example is found in a number of different programs and automates the generation of totals.

Formatting: all spreadsheet programs provide a variety of tools that can be used to enhance the appearance of worksheets. A built-in range of numeric formats, for example, allows users to display values as currency or to a fixed number of decimal places. Users may also adjust the width and height of rows and columns, use different typefaces and make use of shading, colour and lines

Functions: all spreadsheet contain a number of built-in functions that can be used to simplify the construction of a worksheet. Functions are normally divided into a number of different categories so that users can locate them easily. Some typical categories include:

o

Date and time: these allow users to perform calculations dealing with dates, e.g. calculating the number of working days between two dates.

o

Database: typical functions include the ability to sort rows or columns into specified order.

o

Financial: these provide a variety of financial and accounting functions, e.g. the ability to calculate loan repayments based on factors such as the interest rate and the amount borrowed.

o

Logical: these allow users to create formulas that perform calculations according to whether or not specific conditions have been met.

o

Lookup and reference: these provide a range of functions that can be used to create more sophisticated worksheets. E.g. a user might wish to create a formula that looks up a value from a table

o

Mathematics: these include mathematical and trigonometry functions, such as factorials, exponential numbers and square roots

o

Statistical: these allow users to produce statistical information, such as frequency distributions.

o

Text: these provide various methods for manipulating text, such as converting a piece of text into a value.

Charts: an integral feature of spreadsheet programs is the ability to create a variety of different charts based on the data held in the worksheet. These include bar charts, line graphs, area charts. The charts created by spreadsheet programs are often described as live or dynamic,

meaning that if the data in the worksheet is altered, the chart will be updated automatically in order to reflect the changes.

Workbooks and multiple worksheets: modern packages enable a user to organize groups of worksheets within a single workbook. In addition, several workbooks can be opened at the same time. This facility allows users to carry out large or complex tasks more easily and quickly.

Views and scenarios: modern spreadsheet packages is the ability to create views on the data held in a worksheet or workbook. The use of views enables to focus on specific sections of the worksheet by displaying data in a predetermined way. E.g. a manager might wish to view only the summary information held in a worksheet. In order to cater for this, a view could be created that displays only the required information, hiding all other data from sight.

Database functions: the way in which data is organized within a worksheet, by rows and columns, means that all spreadsheet programs are capable of being used to perform simple database operations. Although spreadsheet programs are clearly unable to offer the functionality of a specialized database program, all programs offer the basic functions of queries, filters and sorting.

Data analysis tools: the majority of modern spreadsheet packages contain a number of tools designed to automate common data analysis tasks. These tools remove the need for users to memorize complex formulae and perform all calculations automatically.

Import/export of data: spreadsheet programs are able to deal with data drawn from a variety of

different sources. In many cases, files produced by other packages can be imported directly into

a worksheet with no loss of data.

Storage and retrieval of information using databases

Prior to the introduction of electronic database systems, almost all of the information an organization needed to store was organized using manual filling systems. Typical methods included filing cabinets and card index records. Although manual filing systems are used widely are still used widely, electronic databases are also commonplace and are considered to provide a number of important benefits to business organizations.

Disadvantages of manual filing

The way in which information is organized largely determines the uses to which it can be put.

For example, if a list of customers is stored in alphabetical order by name, it is difficult to view customers by location.

is often difficult to retrieve specific items of information quickly

might not be possible to add, amend or delete the information held in a manual record

It

It

without creating a new copy of the record

is sometimes difficult to classify information so that it can be stored in the correct location. This makes it difficult to locate specific items of information at a later date.

It

information is used regularly by a number of different individuals or departments, multiple copies of manual files may need to be maintained. This alone can introduce a number of difficulties arising from the duplication of data e.g.

If

o Extra expense is incurred in terms of the additional storage space and labour power required to maintain files

o

Changes made to one set of files may not be reflected in all copies. This can mean that some files contain outdated information, while others may contain new additional details.

o

If a standardized filing system is used, this may not suit the needs of all users. On the other hand, the use of different filing systems creates problems in maintaining files and location information.

Advantages of electronic databases

A database will allow users to organize information in a variety of different views. The information can be reorganized quickly. This allows an organization to maximize its usage of information it holds, through techniques such as data mining.

The powerful search facilities provided by electronic database programs can be used to locate and retrieve information many thousands of times faster than by manual methods.

An electronic database provides facilities for users to add, amend or delete records as required. Additional facilities simplify data entry and assist in managing the information held.

Sophisticated indexing features mean that the same basic information can be stored under a number of different categories. This provides great flexibility and allows users to locate, retrieve and organize information needed.

Databases used throughout a company are usually accessed by many different users across a network system. Some advantages of this approach include:

o

Since the unnecessary duplication of information is minimized, the costs involved in maintaining records are reduced

o

Any changes made to the information held in the database are reflected to all users, ensuring consistency at all times

o

Although information is held in a structured manner, the database software will normally provide sufficient flexibility to meet the different requirements of individual users and departments.

An overview of the types of database Database: a collection of related information stored in an organized way so that specific items can be selected and retrieved quickly. A database need not involve the use of technology examples of manual databases include telephone directories, address books, diaries and card index files.

Database Management Systems

One or more computer programs that allow users to enter, store, organize, manipulate and retrieve data from a database.

Field

Fields and records organize the data in an electronic database. A field is a single item of information, such as a name or a quantity

Record

This is a collection of related fields

Table

In an electronic database, data is organized within structures known as tables. A table is a collection of many records.

Databases management systems

The introduction of database management systems altered the way in which organizations managed their data resources.

Characteristics of DBMS approach

Programs include a range of general purpose tools and utilities for producing reports or extracting data.

The availability of general purpose tools enabled not-technical users to access data, extract records and produce reports with little support from technical staff

The use of DBMS encouraged organizations to introduce standards for developing and operating their databases.

Approaches to file processing

Three basic approaches have become popular for design of electronic databases:

File processing

Database management systems

Relational database management systems

File processing

Early data processing systems were based around numerous files containing large amounts of data related to daily business transactions. As a result, many organizations found themselves in a position where they held large amounts of valuable data but were unable to maximize their use of it. A major problem stemmed from the fact that the data held was often stored in different formats, for example completely different structures might be used to store details of sales and purchases.

Characteristics of file processing

Data was held separately from the programs that made use of it

Programs were limited in functionality as they were often created to perform a single task- carrying out new tasks often resulted in a need to create a completely new program.

Since a relatively high degree of technical knowledge was needed to create and operate programs, non-technical users often found it difficult to access the information they needed.

The process of developing new programs each time new requirements needed to be addressed was considered expensive, time consuming and inefficient

This type of database is sometimes described as having a flat file structure (a self-contained database that only contains one type of record or table and cannot access data held in other database files). Flat file databases are suited to relatively small applications where the data held does not need to be cross- referenced with other data files. Since the structure of a flat file tends to be quite simple, data can be processed very quickly. E.g. an address book

Free form database

A free form database allows users to store information in the form of brief notes or passages of text. Each item can be placed within a category or assigned to one or more keywords. Information is

organized and retrieved by using categories or keywords

A modern variation of free-form databases comes in hypertext databases. In a hypertext database

information is stored as a series of objects and can consist of text, graphics, numerical data and multimedia data. Any object can be linked to any other, allowing storing disparate information in an organized manner.

Both free form and hypertext databases provide great flexibility in terms of the type and content of the information stored. However they are unsuitable for certain applications, e.g. those involving complex data from across an organization.

An example of a free form database is in the help files found within most software packages. An example of a hypertext database could be the pages available via the World Wide Web.

Database Management Systems

The introduction of database management systems altered the way in which organizations managed their data resources. Although data was still held separately from the programs that made use of it, this new approach offered greater flexibility while reducing development and operating costs.

Characteristics of DBMS

Programs included a range of general-purpose tools and utilities for producing reports for extracting data. This meant that comparatively little development was needed in order to undertake new tasks

The availability of general-purpose tools and utilities enabled non-technical users to access data. Users were able to analyze data, extract records and produce with little support from technical staff.

The use of DBMS encouraged organizations to introduce standards for developing and operating their databases. E.g. many organizations developed standards governing the structure of any new data files created.

Main Types of DBMS

Relational Database Management Systems (RDBMS)

The popularity of the RDBMS approach grew from a need to share data resources across the entire organization. Relational databases enable data to be stored within a number of different tables. They are the most widely used type of database. Separate record designs can be used to store data dealing with different subjects e.g. a database used for stock control might use separate record designs to store information concerning items stocked, re-order levels and supplier details.

Primary Key:

The tables within a relational database can be linked together using one or more record keys. All records must contain a unique record key called a primary key. It’s used to identify a specific record. Relationship: in a relational database, data can be combined from several different sources by defining relationships between tables.

Compound key: in a relational database, it is possible to retrieve data from several tables at once by using record keys in combination, often known as a compound key.

Object-oriented databases

An object oriented approach to database design employs the concept of reusable objects in order to develop sophisticated or complex applications. An object combines data structures with any functions needed to manipulate the object or data it holds.

Object-oriented database is made up of objects combining data structures with functions needed to manipulate the object or the data it holds. As an example, an object called Employee might be created to store details such as name, address, and age etc. to be stored. In addition, the object would also contain facilities that allow various actions to be performed, such as changing an employee’s address:

Advantages of object-oriented databases

Since objects are self-contained, they are easy to manage, for example changes can be made to an individual object without necessarily altering any other part of the system.

New objects can be created quickly and easily from existing ones.

Objects can be copied or transferred into new systems with little difficulty

Features of relational database management systems

Multiple tables. The majority of modern database programs support the creation of relational databases containing several linked tables.

Forms. All major database programs enable to create and modify data entry forms. A data entry form provides a convenient means of viewing, entering, editing and deleting records.

Indexes. An index stores information concerning the order of records in the database. The index lists the location of records but does not alter the actual order of the database. They are used to increase the speed with which records can be located or sorted. Multiple indexes can be created so that the records in the database can be sorted in a variety of ways.

Security. All modern database programs provide a range of sophisticated security features. Examples of some of the most common features available include:

o

Encryption. Data can be encoded so that it appears meaningless until decoded. Passwords provide control over the encryption and decryption process

o

Recovery. Many programs contain tools that allow damaged database files to be repaired. In the event that a file cannot be repaired, additional tools may be available that allow users to retrieve as much data as possible from the damaged file.

o

Passwords. Access to specific files or tables can be restricted through the use of passwords. Several passwords can be used to limit what parts of the database different users can view or alter.

Reports. All major database packages allow users to generate a wide variety of reports. Many programs are capable of creating simple reports automatically. In addition, many programs allow users to perform calculations and other actions as the report is produced. This enables additional information, such as subtotals, to be calculated and included in the report whenever required.

Queries. A query enables a user to locate, sort, update or extract records from a database. It’s used to extract data according to a set of conditions specified by the user. Users a design query by specifying the conditions that must be met in order for a record to be selected.

Filters. A filter allows users to view the information held in a database in variety of ways. Filters can be used to sort data into different orders, display only selected fields or display only selected records

Structured query language. This provides a standardized method for retrieving information from databases. Although traditionally used to manage large databases held on mainframes and minicomputers, it has become a widely used popular tool for personal computer databases.

Macros. This is a programming tool that can be used to handle extremely complex tasks.

Data analysis tools. The majority of modern database programs contain a number of tools designed to automate common data analysis tasks. The ability to generate charts and graphs, for example is a common feature.

Import/export of data. Database programs are able to deal with data drawn from a variety of different sources. In many cases, files produced by other packages can be imported directly into a database with no loss of data.

Electronic Mail

E-mail can be defined as the transmission of a message over a communications network.

Typical Applications

Internal Communications: many organizations use e-mail instead of internal memos or telephone calls. This has the advantage of the messages being stored automatically until the user comes to access it.

Teleworking: this refers to working from geographically dispersed locations e.g working from home using technology as a means of communicating with employers, clients and other persons.

Advantages of e-mail

Speed. E-mail messages can be transmitted very fast

Cost. The cost of sending and receiving messages is considered very low. Hundreds of messages can be sent or received for the cost of a brief telephone call, making e-mail far cheaper than the postal service.

Multiple copies. E-mail allows multiple copies of the same basic message to be created and transmitted.

Auditing. Even the simplest e-mail package will provide a number of features that allow users to audit their messages. Most programs allow users to keep copies of any messages they produce, automatically marking them with the date and time they were created.

Sharing data. E-mail messages can be used to transmit data files to other users. Files can be attached to messages and transmitted in the actual way.

Multimedia. The latest e-mail packages allow users to include multimedia elements, including graphics, video, and hyperlinks to information on the Internet and sound files.

Group work. E-mail supports group work and remote working. Group work involves several people working on the same project, using IT to help them communicate with each other and share data files. Remote working (teleworking) involves people working away from a central office-perhaps at home-but staying in contact through e-mail and other methods.

Flexibility. The hardware and software used for handling e-mail can also be used for a variety of other purposes. A typical modem, for example, can also be used to send or receive fax messages.

Disadvantages

Routing. E-mail messages seldom take the most direct route to their destinations. This can lead to a number of difficulties:

o

The time taken to receive the message can be very long

o

The are more opportunities for the message to become lost or garbled

o

There are more opportunities for messages to be intercepted

Cost. In order to send or receive e-mail, organizations must have access to the correct hardware and software. The expense of buying new equipment, such as a PC with modem, can mean that it is beyond the reach of smaller companies.

Technical issues. Since using an e-mail service requires a certain level of technical knowledge, novice users may find it difficult to operate the hardware and software involved. This can place a burden on an organization in terms of training and technical support requirements.

Spam. Most e-mail users receive unwanted messages, such as advertisements. The act of sending out these messages is usually called spamming. Dealing with unwanted or unnecessary e-mail messages can place a great burden on an organization’s resources.

Security. Unless they are encrypted, e-mail messages can be intercepted relatively easily. This makes e-mail unsuitable for sending confidential information unless special precautions are taken.

Features of an e-mail package

Message Editor: All packages provide a facility to allow users to enter the text of a new message.

Message Reader: all e-mail programs are designed to collect new messages and allow users to view them on the screen. Most programs also enable users to print the contents of a message or copy the text into another program, such as a word processor.

Replying to messages: most packages will automatically include the e-mail address, subject and the text of message being replied to. This enables a user to annotate a message that has been received and return their comment to the sender.

Filters: filters provide the ability to mark messages for special attention. It searches for a keyword or phrases in a message. Any messages matching the filter conditions can be dealt with automatically. They can be used to highlight messages for special attention, delete messages automatically, copy or move messages to another location or reply to incoming messages automatically.

Mail boxes: most packages provide facilities for archiving, copying, moving, deleting and grouping messages. Mailboxes can be created to hold messages from certain people or concerning a particular subject.

Encryption: many programs provide the facility to encode messages so that only intended recipients can read them.

File attachments: data files such as word-processing documents can be attached to messages and sent to other users. Many packages have the ability to encode and decode files automatically so that they can be sent and received with little difficulty.

Aliases and address books: the process of sending messages to specific individuals or groups can be simplified by making use of aliases. An alias usually consists of a description and the e- mail addresses of those grouped under the alias. Groups of aliases can be stored within the address book tool found within most e-mail packages. The address book enables users to create, delete, edit, and organize aliases.

Signatures: a signature file contains information that can be automatically added to the end of an e-mail message. The signature file is normally a simple text file that can be created or edited using a text editor or similar program.

Chapter 3: Adoption of Information Technology

Acquisition or procurement of a computer.

Introduction of computers into the business is an act that should be considered with great concern, because it involves capital expenditure and therefore should be cost effective. The effects of introducing the computer and its related facilities are investigated in great depth to ensure that adequate returns are expected from such an investment.

Computer costs.

This depends on: -

Size

Nature

Application requirements of the organization

Big and complex organizations may require complex configuration and sophisticated related facilities whereas small and simple organizations may require less sophisticated computer installations.

Classification of Computer Costs

i) Initial Costs

Are initial capital expenditures on the computer facilities when they are being acquired.

Are normally considerable

The costs are influenced by the method of acquiring the computer and its related facilities adopted and o the type, nature and model of the facilities to be acquired.

Computer Initial Costs

Facility

Examples

Hardware

CPU and peripherals

Software

System and Application programs

Media

Tapes, Disks, Cassettes

Training

Managers, Analysts, Programmers, operators

Computer room

Construction, Environmental conditions equipments etc

Others

Others Feasibility study, programming, changeover costs etc

Feasibility study, programming, changeover costs etc

Others Feasibility study, programming, changeover costs etc

ii) Recurrent Costs:

These are the operating costs which are met by the organization for the computer system after the

system becomes operational. The costs are influenced by the method of acquisition adopted.

Examples of operational costs

i) Depreciation costs e.g. Charges on depreciating machines and other equipments e.g. air conditioning facilities

ii) Wages for staff e.g. Analysts, programmers, operators.

iii) Administrative expenses e.g. telephone bills, insurance cover, and consumable items etc.

iv) Other general expenses e.g. conducting seminars, on job training staff etc.

Functions of Computer

The main functions or purposes of computers are: -

To maintain control of business operations

To provide the required information more effectively and accurately.

Main uses of computers in organization

i) Preparation of payroll

It calculates gross pay, PAYE, social contributions like NSSF, NHIF etc and after these deductions, the net

pay of the employees is determined.

ii) Stock Control

The records of stock in respect of goods purchased and sold are maintained by the computer. The computer contains the information regarding the items purchased, sold. Price, stock reference and the re-order-level.

iii) Records of Debtors

The computers maintain the records of debtors to ensure that they pay in time. Over-due debtors are

pin-pointed by computer.

iv) Budgetary controls:

Computers are used to prepare the budgets and ensure the proper implementation of these budgets. The computer can alert the management when the actual performance of the organization varies from the planned program.

v)

Production Control

The computers are used to control the production level thus computer help the management to make

correct decisions.

Advantages of a computer:

iii) Speedy processing of information hence may be cost saving e.g staff costs, equipment cost etc.

iv) Accurate results are obtained are obtained from computers

v) Computers can work continuously without getting bored or tired

vi) Computer can work on voluminous data items provided relevant instruction set is input

vii) Computer can operate in risky environment e.g volcanic e,g volcanic sites, lethal chemical plants, where human life is feared.

viii) The computer is flexible i.e. can adapt to any work load without much strain.

ix) Computer produces reliable information

x) Large volume of data can be conveniently stored, assessed and altered.

xi) Computers can provide useful information to management for control and decision making

xii) Computers help to reduce paper works significantly

xiii) The number of persons required for performing various organizational activities will be reduced by using a computer system.

xiv) The use of computer for office activities reduces the requirements of office space which otherwise is required.

NB: The above benefits may be classified as cost saving, improved data processing quality and better management information.

Disadvantages of Using a Computer

i) Computers are costly

ii) Due to the rapid change in the technology, the computer and related facilities can become outdated very fast, hence posing a risk of capital loss

iii) Changing from the old system (The manual system) is a gradual process during which there is interruption in the normal working environment.

iv) There is usually fear that installing the computer into an organization might result in replacing some human employees.

v) Controlling the computer master file’s contents is difficult exercise due to the fact that the contents of the master files of computer based systems are non human sensible. There is further fear also that such contents may suffer from fraudulent acts by the people who know them.

vi) Manual systems, though slow, are more flexible as compared to the computerized systems.

Resistance from employees (Reasons)

i) Fear of change: people are creatures of habit and hence are afraid of change.

ii) Fear of losing their jobs: people usually associate the computer with loss of jobs and hence will be afraid that they might end up losing their jobs.

iv)

Loss of control: The management will be afraid that once a computer is implemented they might lose control of the organization.

v) Lack of understanding: The user may not understand the benefits of the computer system in their jobs. Thus this will create resistance since the computer will be looked upon as an intruder.

Procedure for procurement of a computer

Computer acquisition necessitates the formation of a steering committee, whose purpose is to supervise the computer feasibility study and subsequently to monitor the electronic data processing (EDP) operations.

The committee is made up of personnel from the various departments at various levels that are affected by the introduction of the computer into the organization. The computer feasibility study should establish the following:-

The need to acquire the computer facilities

How to finance the equipments i.e. the methods of procuring the equipments needed.

The computer equipments implementation considerations e.g. user training, changeover, time scales etc.

The reaction of the personnel within the data processing department e.g. their resistance.

Prior to feasibility study, preliminary study is conducted to judge the expected costs and benefits, computer word load so as to determine whether carrying out feasibility is necessary and to specify its objectives. A detailed investigation of the work area is carried out based on the objectives set out from the preliminary survey and a schedule is drawn, which takes care of both present and future application requirements of the EDP system. Once the schedule is drawn the suppliers are asked to give a detailed quotation.

Using the schedule, the supplier should specify the facilities necessary e.g.

The required h/w and s/w and maintenance offered by the manufactures

The cost estimates, depending on the method to adopted in financing the facilities

Back up equipments or procedures provided and capital involved in maintaining such strategy.

Adaptability of the proposed system to enhance data processing operations.

Training advice or seminars offered by the manufacturer.

Delivery dates.

The replies are evaluated by the steering committee and the decisions taken are contained in the feasibility study report, which contains the following.

The recommended h/w, s/w and other facilities

The method of procuring the recommended equipment

Cost benefit appraisal of the recommended equipments against rejected ones

Installation consideration and the expected growth in the work load

The effect of computerization to the organization

NB: The report is handed to the top management for a decision, to either acquire the facilities of a particular model or to take no action.

Methods of procurement of a computer

There are four methods namely

Rental

Purchasing

Leasing

Using Bureau

i) Renting a computer

The computer facilities are acquired and installed for use within the aspiring user’s premises at fixed

periodic charges e.g. monthly charges payable to the manufacturer.

Advantages

i) Tax allowances are available

ii) There is no large initial capital expenditure

iii) The effects of technological changes are reduced, because during the agreement period, the charges are fixed hence inflation and maintenance is by the manufacturer and obsolete equipments can be returned to him.

iv) The user has more flexibility to change the equipment configuration.

Disadvantages

i) This method is expensive in the long term, i.e. with time more computer varieties and related facilities may be in market hence prices fall, but the rental charges remain fixed.

ii) The computer and related facilities remain the assets of the manufacturer and hence can not be used by the renting company as a security e.g. while seeking loan facilities.

iii) In breach of the rental agreement, the computer, the computer and related facilities may be repossessed by the manufacturer.

iv) The renting company usually pays more for any extra work done by the computer and its facilities that was not covered in the rental agreement.

v) Productivity of the machines comes down with time but rental charges remain the same.

ii)

Purchasing a computer

The user, which is the aspiring company, pays the manufacturer or supplier an amount equivalent to the computer and related facilities’ value and the purchasing company owns the computer and the related facilities.

Advantages

i) The computer and the related facilities become the assets of the buying company

ii) It may be cheaper in the long term with tax advantages

iii) Frequent expenditure is not expected, where the manufacturer enters maintenance agreement with the buying company.

iv) The company can decide to sell the computer and or and/ or related facilities to generate cash, which will depend on the market value of the facility to be sold.

v) Since the company owns the computer and related facilities, there are no extra charges for additional work done as in renting.

Disadvantages

i)

In long term the computer and related facilities may become obsolete hence the organization suffers the loss due to the advancement in technology.

ii)

There is large initial capital outlay but the returns are usually slow.

iii)

Capital committed in purchasing the computer and its related facilities may be spent on other higher returning investments for the organization

iv)

Several other competing investment opportunities would have to be forgone in making the big cash outflow for purchasing the computer.

iii)

Leasing a computer

The leasing company (Lessor), installs the computer and its facilities in the user’s (lessee’s) premises. The lessee then pays leasing charges to the lessor, who acquires the computer and its related facilities from the manufacture and meets all the payments of the equipments values.

Leasing contracts are similar to rental contracts but usually for longer periods than those of renting. Leasing contract charges are low and renewable even at lower rates compared to rental agreements.

Advantages

iii) Leasing charges are lower than the rental charges, and contracts are renewable even at lower rates unlike rental agreements.

iv) In leasing, the extra work load for the computer system is not charged for by the lessor

v) It does not require heavy initial investment

vi) Lease expenditure being a revenue expense may be charged to the profit and loss account

viii)

Lease charges generally decline after a specified period

Disadvantages

i)

Fixed charges are to met

ii)

The computer and the related facilities may be repossessed by the lessor incase the leasing contract is breached

iii)

The computer and related facilities remain the assets of the lessor

iv)

Maintenance contracts may not be guaranteed

v)

In this arrangement, the lessee has got no choice over such facilities, because the lessor acquires such facilities from the manufacturer of his choice

vi)

The primary period for leasing is usually much longer than the renting period

iv)

Using a bureau

A bureau is an organization which renders computer services to other companies which depend on such

services, its clients.

Computer bureaus can be companies, manufacturers, or users, with extra time to hire out, who work with an aim of rendering services to the other companies.

They render the following services: -

i) System analysis and design

ii) Developing computer programs

iii) Computer time hire out, and do it-it- yourself.

iv) Advice and consultancy

Advantages

i) A company that is considering acquiring a computer may find it extremely beneficial to use a bureau because: -

a) It can evaluate the type of computer it is interested in.

b) It can test and develop its programs prior to the delivery of its own computer

c) Its staff will become familiar with the requirements of a computer system.

ii) Many companies cannot justify the installation of an in-house computer on cost benefit grounds and the use of a bureau does not require a high capital outlay

iii) Some computer users find it convenient to employ a bureau to cope with peak loads arising e.g. from seasonal variation in sales

iv) A bureau computer may be used in the event of a breakdown of an in-house machine

v) It enables data processing to be done the people who have the expertise.

Disadvantages

i) The users of the bureau services have got no control over their jobs once they are submitted to the bureau.

ii) Periodic audit is necessary because transportation of data and/or information from the organization to the bureau’s premises or vice versa, may pose problems e.g. fraud

iii) Control by individual companies is difficult because processing goes on at a remote location

iv) Confidential information’s security is at risk.

Factors to consider when selecting the procurement method

i) Economic factors

i) Cost comparisons

ii) Acquisition methods

iii) Return on investment

ii) Hardware factors

i) Hardware performance, reliability, capacity and price

ii) Firmness of delivery date

iii) Accessibility of back-up facilities

iv) Presence or absence of modularity

v) Effective life of proposed hardware

vi) Compatibility with existing systems

iii) Software factors

i) Software performance

ii) Firmness of delivery date on the proposed software

iii) Availability and reliability of available software

iv) Availability of useful and well documented packaged programs

v) Ease of use and modification

iv) Service factors

i) Maintenance terms and quality

ii) Training facilities offered and quality of training provided

iii) Programming assistance and conversion assistance offered

iv) Facilities provided by the manufacturer for checking new programs

v) Reputation of a manufacturer

i) Financial stability

ii) Record of keeping promises

Chapter 4: Data Processing modes

DATA PROCESSING MODES

This involves collection and processing of the organizations data. Individual data units in an organization are described as transactions. The computer system processes data with speed, accuracy and efficiency. In order to increase the efficiency of a computer system, many innovations, both in h/w and s/w have been made. These include the facility for a number of users to use a computer simultaneously or a number of programs to be executed simultaneously etc.

Data processing modes describe the ways these transactions are handled during processing. They are also known as data processing systems.

Batch Processing (Or Off-Line Processing)

It describes a mode in which the transactions are accumulated over a period of time and then processed at a pre specified time to produce a batch of output.

It formed the basis for the early computers dealing with the transactions. It is still found in many computer system of today even though there has been advanced techniques of handling the transactions.

Data collection is usually done off-line in isolation of the CPU, on special machines known as data entry terminals. The data so collected is input after a fixed time, processed and results obtained (e.g. in payroll preparation)

Advantages

i. Simple to develop system.

ii. Timing of the reports (information) not a necessity.

iii. The unit cost of processing is low.

Disadvantages

i. Time lag between origination of transactions and information availability.

ii. Late information is not suitable in situations where instant decisions are required.

iii. It is difficult to provide the desired priority scheduling.

On-Line Processing

It is a type of processing where the result of data processing transaction is available immediately.

It’s a mode in which all the computer peripherals and/or the other equipments eg communication equipments are under direct influence of the central processor.

In this mode of processing, as soon as the input transactions are available they can be processed to produce the information sought for.

The files are held on-line and hence enquiries or file interrogation is possible at any time. The transactions can be input and master files be directly updated on spot.

It allows a dialogue to be established between the user or operator and the computers operating system. (This may be done by use of commands).

On-line does not always imply that the work stations are within the same geographical location with the central computer. It is possible for the on-line work station to be connected to the central computer through telecommunication links.

In such a configuration, the data (input transactions) are communicated from the work stations via telecommunication links to the central computer for processing and results communicated back to the work stations through the telecommunication links.

VDUs as terminals (work stations) are connected to a centrally computer through communication links.

The communication links are either the telecommunication or cable links depending on the distance separating the central computer and the terminals.

Examples of on-line applications include:

i. Banking ––on-line systems are being used to inform bank customers of the status of their accounts in response to an inquiry by accessing the relevant file using on-line terminal.

ii. Stock exchanges –––terminals located in major stock exchanges throughout the country and the officers of participating brokerage firms enable the speedy processing of share dealings.

iii. Stock control–––terminals located in warehouses provide the means for automatic re-ordering of stock ,reservations, follow-up of outstanding orders and the printing of picking lists etc.

iv. Work progress control in plants.

v. Inventory status or ordering and reporting of geographically dispensed distributors

Advantages

Files are maintained up to date

The information is readily available for current decisions. This information is fed back to the work stations where they are needed.

File enquiries possible through the terminals (work stations).

Disadvantages

These systems are complex to develop.

They are costly in terms of the hardware, software, storage media, operating system, communication facilities etc.

Time Sharing Processing

This is a mode in which case the central processor serves two or more users with different processing requirements (tasks).

The central computer is therefore available to a variety of users, connected to the central computer via communication links, who may wish to process their data and receive information or test their programs. The computer work upon the user’s request (task) and the results are communicated back to the work station via communication links.

The processor time is divided out appropriately among the user tasks into time slices, which is the time during which an active job (task) has got the sole access to the processors resources. Control is switched from one job to another under the influence of the operating system, intern, hence the processors idle time is removed.

Characteristics of a time sharing system.

i.

Each user one or more input /output devices connected to the central computer by communication lines.

ii.

Each user acts independently of the others who are connected to the system.

iii.

The central computer accepts data and instructions arriving simultaneously from many users and, by giving each user a small but frequently repeated segment of computer time.

iv.

The user’s data files are maintained at the central computer center.

v.

Each user has its own private set of programs plus access to a set of public programs.

vi.

The data files, programs, and input /output devices are all directly connected to the computer, so that processing can be performed at random as transactions occur and request mode.

Application

In bureau who serve individuals or small companies who cannot afford the computer facilities. This can be applicable in learning institutions where there are many users.

Advantages

i. Better services to users, for the information/ output is fast

ii. The problem of the processor idle time is solved for the processor has not to wait for the slower communicating peripherals.

iii. Files are held on-line hence enquiries or files interrogations possible.

iv. Man computer dialogues are often in use through terminals connected to the host (central) computer.

v. Helpful to small companies which cannot afford purchasing the computer and related facilities, thus served at a fee through time sharing processing mode.

vi. It avoids duplication of s/w

vii. The user of the system can avail the facility of the computer through remote terminals.

Disadvantages

i. The users have got no control over the central computer.

ii. The response time high (i.e. slow response) when there are many tasks.

iii. Ti is not reliable as regards the security of data.

Real Time Processing

Is a data processing system in which the time interval required to process and respond to inputs is so small that the response itself is useful for controlling the physical activity of a process.

It provides immediate transaction input capability from all input originating stations.

Essential Requirements For Real Time Processing

a) Direct connection (on-line) between input/output devices and the central processor.

b) Fairly fast response time, allowing two way communication (interaction between the user and central processor)

Example

An on-line production data collection system that simply accepts an input from terminals in the factory and utilizes it for payments and costing purposes later would not constitute real time data processing but it would be termed real time if the system was designed to provide immediate information resulting in prompt changes to the functioning of the production process as and when necessary.

Applications

Real time processing is for applications that require much rapid response eg in airline reservation system, an individual cannot be booked before prior enquiry whether the seat, class, etc is available. Note that such information is required on spot before a decision to book the individual is undertaken. This implies that before the next transaction can be processed, the files

must have been updated by the previous transactions. (Others: hotel reservations, cinema bookings etc).

Other application areas are for example in chemical plants, when the temperature is to be regulated then a rise in temperature require immediate reaction for correction, missile control etc.

Advantages

i. The information is readily available for instant decision

ii. Provides better service to users or customers.

iii. It is a fast and reliable mode of data processing.

Disadvantages

i. They are complex systems that use complex operating systems hence very expensive.

ii. They are not easy to develop systems.

iii. Real time systems usually use two or more computers, sharing up the work load, the process described as multi-processing, which is expensive.

Distributing Processing

Is a data processing system consisting of various geographically dispersed computers, liked by communication lines and all the computers linked belong to the same organization.

This implies that the computers are located at various departments or business sites for the individual departments or the business site to be served individually by its own computer resources.

The computers at different departments or business sites may not be communicating to each other at all, the computers of limited processing power e.g. micro computers may serve as terminals from the various departments or sites connected to a central computer of enhanced processing ability e.g. the mini or the main frame computer.

A typical application is in banks where all the branches have intelligent terminals (usually microcomputers) linked to a big computer at the head office. Data from the branches is sent to the master where it is processed.

Advantages

i. Reduction of the load on the host computer.

ii. Minimization of cost in data processing due to the use of low cost mini computers.

iii. Reduction of delays in data processing.

iv. Better service to the customers.

v. Less risk of system breakdown.

vi. Less complexity of system design and implementation due to decentralization.

Disadvantages

i. Expensive because of extra cost on communication equipment.

ii. Data duplication is very common.

iii. Programming problems occur with micro and mini computers.

iv. More training needed for the users involved.

MULTYPROGRAMMING

It is a concept of having more than one program resident in the computer memory and are being processed or executed apparently or currently i.e. simultaneously.

Scheduling the job for run or execution is done automatically by the processor under the influence of the control program, the operating system, which in this case is described as multi-programming or multi-tasking operation system.

Advantages

i. Increases productivity of a computer.

ii. Reduces the CPU idle time

iii. Reduces the incidence of the peripheral bound operations

Disadvantages

i. Requires more expensive CPU.

ii. Operating system is complex and difficult to operate.

iii. Requires more expensive input/output facilities

CLIENT SERVER ARCHITECTURE (COMPUTING)

In computer terms, client and server are both computer programs which reside on different computers.

If two or more programs have to interact with each other for performing a task, one must wait for requests from the other.

In this context, the server program is a passive program that waits for requests from clients. Therefore, a server program endlessly waits for requests from one or more clients. A client on the other hand, is an active program that initiates a request for the request for the services of that server.

When one computer requests for the services of another, it is known as client-server computing. The participating computers are known as client and server computers. Servers service or fulfill the client requests, e.g. a server computer could store files, in which a client computer may be interested.

Factors to consider in selecting the data processing mode

i.

The suitability of accumulating data (transaction) into batches for processing.

ii.

The need for direct information retrieval and/or file interrogations.

iii.

The optimization of the processing time.

iv.

The time factor of the information for decision making by the managers.

v.

The cost of acquiring the relevant h/w, s/w media etc and the cost of maintenance.

vi.

The ease of development, use and subsequent maintenance.

vii.

The control over the resources e.g. files I/O devices etc.

viii.

The necessity of data communication equipment and/or facilities and the involved costs and convenience.

ix.

The need for the shared resources among several users, who may afford purchasing their own facilities as in time showing configuration system.

Chapter 5: Information and Information systems

Data and Information

Data

Is a collection of non-random facts recorded by observation or research

It consists of raw facts or observations that are considered to have little or no value until they have been processed and transformed into information. Unrelated items of data are considered to be essentially without meaning and are often described as noise

There are several definitions for data in common use:

A series of non-random symbols, numbers, values or words

A series of facts obtained by observation or research

A collection of non-random facts

The record of an event or fact Examples:

Today data, measurement taken on a production line; records of business transactions.

Naturally occurring data needs to be recorded in some way. The person recording the data tends to have a little influence or control over the data itself, since it already exists in a form or another.

Information

Information can be defined as:

Data that has been processed so that they are meaningful.

Data that has been processed for a purpose.

Data that has been interpreted and understood by the recipient

There are important points that that can be drawn from this definition:

a) There is a clear and logical process that can be used to produce information. This process involves collecting data and then subjecting it to transformation process in order to create information.

b) Information involves placing data in some form of meaningful context, so that it can be understood and acted on.

c) Information is produced for a purpose, to serve an information need of some kind.

Examples of information

ii.

A sales forecast

iii. A telephone directory

NB: it is worth noting that information is subjective in nature; a piece of information found to be of

value to one person may be meaningless to another. Similarly, what might be regarded as information by one person may be seen as data by another. A somewhat different view of information can be examined by introducing an additional definition.

I.e. information acts to reduce uncertainty about a situation or event.

NB: information:

i. Involves transformation of data using a defined process.

ii. Involves placing data in some form of meaningful context.

iii. Is produced in response to an information need and therefore serves a specific purpose;

iv. Helps to reduce uncertainty, thereby improving decision behavior.

Creating information

A number of different data processes can be used to transform data into information.

Data processes

i.

Classificationthis involves placing data into categories, for example categorizing an expense and either a fixed or a variable cost.

Data

Data Transformation process information

Transformation process

Data Transformation process information

information

ii) Rearranging /sorting this involves organizing data so that items are grouped together or placed into a particular order. Employee data for example might be sorted according to last name or payroll number.

iii) Aggregating:this involves summarizing data, for example by calculating averages, totals or subtotals.

iv) Performing calculations: an example might be calculating an employees’ gross pay by multiplying the number of hours worked by the hourly rate of pay.

v) Selection. This involves choosing or discarding items of data based on a set of selection criteria. A sales organization, for example, might create a list, of potential customers by selecting those with incomes above a certain level.

Value of Information

When information is used effectively, it can bring about many of the improvements listed below.

i) Improved inventory control

iii)

Increased production reduced administration costs

iv) Greater customer loyalty

v) Enhanced public image

Sources of Information

Formal communication

This involves presenting information in a structured and consistent manner. Since formal information tends to be presented in a more structured manner, it is also more likely to present a more comprehensive view of situations or circumstances it describes. Information transmitted by formal communication tends to be presented in a consistent manner, e.g. company reports, will often use the same basic format. Information transmitted this way is likely to be accurate and relevant, since it is normally created for a specific purpose.

Disadvantages

a. The structure imposed on information is often inflexible, sometimes limiting its type, form and

content.

b. Formal communication often overlooks information obtained by informal means. This can lead to a number of negative effects e.g. managers are less likely to be able to gain in-depth understanding of a particular situation if they do not have access to all relevant information. In turn this can affect the decision making process, reducing the quality and accuracy of any decision made.

c. Formal communication often ignores group and social mechanisms. A formal report e.g. might marginalize or ignore staff opinions, causing offence and leading to reduced morale. Informal communication

This describes less well-structured information that is transmitted by informal means, such as casual conversation between members of staff. Informal communication tends to offer a high degree of flexibility, since there is more freedom to choose how information is structured and presented.

Information obtained this way also tends to be highly detailed, although it may often contain inaccuracies and may not be entirely relevant.

The scope of information obtained this way is often very narrow, relevant only to localized problem solving and decision making, since it allows managers to gain a more detailed and in-depth understanding of a given situation.

Disadvantages

a. It cannot deal with large volumes of information

b. It’s relatively slow and inefficient

c. It can also be highly selectively e.g. a person taking part in a conversation may be able to restrict what information is transmitted and who is able to receive it.

Qualities of Information

Summary

Time

Content

Form

Additional Characteristics

Timeliness

Accuracy

Clarity

Confidence in source

Currency

Relevance

Detail

Reliability

Frequency

Completeness

Order

Appropriate

Time Period

Conciseness

Presentation

Received by the correct person

 

Scope

Media

Sent by the correct channel

Time Horizon

The time dimension describes the time period with which the information deals and frequency with which the information is received

Timeliness- The information should be available when needed. If information is provided too early, it may not be relevant. If the information is provided too late, it will be of no use.

Currency- The information should reflect current circumstances when provided. In addition to being up to date, the information should also indicate those areas or circumstances liable to change by the time the information is used.

Frequency: information should also be available as often needed. This normally means that information should be supplied at regular intervals e.g. some organizations may require weekly sales reports while others need only monthly reports.

Time period: The information should cover the correct time period. A sales forecast e.g. might include information concerning past performance, current performance and predicted performance so that the recipient has a view of past, present and future circumstances.

Content Dimension

This describes the scope and content of information

Accuracy: information that contains errors has only limited value to the organization.

Relevance: The information supplied should be relevant to a particular situation and should meet the information needs of the recipient. Extraneous detail can comprise other attributes of information quality, such as scope and conciseness.

Completeness: All of the information required to meet the information needs of recipient should be provided.

Conciseness: Only information relevant to the information needs of the recipient should be supplied. Information should be provided in the most compact form possible. E.g. sales figures are normally provided in the form of a graph or table- it would be unusual for them to be supplied as a descriptive passage of text.

Scope: The scope of the information supplied should be appropriate to the information needs of the recipient.

Form Dimension

Clarity: The information should be presented in a form that is appropriate to the intended recipient. The recipient should be able to locate specific items quickly and should be able to understand the information easily.

Detail: The information should contain the correct level of detail in order to meet the recipient’s information needs e.g. In some cases highly detailed information will be required, while in others only a summary will be necessary.

Order: Information should be provided in the correct order. E.g. Management reports normally contain a brief summary at the beginning. This allows a manager to locate and understand the most important aspects of the report before examining it at high level of detail.

Presentation: The information should be presented in a form that is appropriate to the intended recipient. Different methods can be used to make information clearer and more accessible to the recipient. E.g. it is common to present numerical information in the form of a graph or table.

Media: Information should be presented using the correct media. Formal information for example, is often presented in the form of a printed report, whereas a presentation might make use of a slide projector.

Additional Characteristics

Confidence in the source of the information received. Attempts should be made to obtain information from sources considered to be reliable and trustworthy.

Reliability: Recipients should be confident that they can rely on information being available when that and that the information will be of consistent quality in terms of other attributes of information quality, such as accuracy and conciseness.

The Business environment

All business organizations operate within an environment that influences the way in which they operate e g legislation will act to control some of the organization, activities.

The actions of an organization may also influence parts of the environment. Physical Weather Environment
The actions of an organization may also influence parts of the environment.
Physical
Weather
Environment
Economic Factors
Organization
Specific
Environment
Employee Relations
General
Environment
Competitors
Customers
Supplier
Technology
Public Opinion

Legislation

Location

MANAGERIAL DECISION

MAKING

In order for an organization to function effectively, all activities must be managed in an efficient and organized manner.

The role of managers to forecast and plan, to command, to co-ordinate and to control.

Much of managers’ work involves making decisions about the best way to achieve the organizations objectives.

A forecast, for example, is created to help managers decide what actions are necessary to prepare the

organization for the future.

The success of all of the activities of management depends on access to high quality information.

It is here that information system have a role, as a means of supporting managers work by providing the information he or she needs.

DECISION BEHAVIOR

The way in which managers make decision and the factors that influence those decisions are often described as decision behavior.

Decisions can be classified as structured or unstructured (sometimes referred to as programmable and unprogrammable decisions).

Decision behaviordescribes the process and factors involved when people make decisions.

Structured decisionstend to involve situations where the rules and constrains governing the decision are known. They tend to involve routine or repetitive situations where the number of possible actions is relatively small.

Example

Stock controlthe decision to reorder a given item will be governed by a fairly simple set of rules and constraints when the amounts of stock falls below a certain point, a fixed quantity of stock will be ordered

Unstructured decisions

Tend to involve more complex situations where the rules governing the decision are complicated or unknown. Such decisions tend to be made infrequently and rely heavily on the experience, judgment and knowledge of the decision maker.

Example whether or not an organization should open a new branch in a particular area.

A model of decision making.

Intelligence stage involves gathering information concerning the decision to be made. It recognizes that managers must be made aware that a problem exists before any action can be taken. Once a problem has been identified, information is collected in order to achieve a thorough understanding of the problem and circumstances in which it arose.

Design Stage: As many as possible of the potential solutions to the problem are identified and evaluated. The decision maker begins to discard unsatisfactory solutions in order to reduce the number of alternatives as far as possible. The solution to be implemented is then chosen.

Implementation Stage

Having made a decision, the action required to achieve a resolution to the problem is taken in the implementation stage

Evaluation

Following implementation, the evaluation stage considers how successful the solution has been.

Summary

Stage

Activities

Intelligence

-Awareness that a problem exists

-Awareness that a decision must be made

Design

-Identify all possible solutions

-Examine possible solutions

-Examine implications of all possible solution

Choice

-Select best solution

Implementation

-Implement solution

Evaluation

-Evaluate effectiveness or success of decision

Levels of decision taking

The characteristics of decisions taken in an organization vary according to the level at which they are taken.

Strategic level

Managers are largely concerned with long-term organizational planning

Decisions tend to be unstructured and are made infrequently

Decisions at this level have large impact on the organization as a whole and cannot be reversed easily. Example

A choice of new markets into which to move

Tactical level

Managers are concerned with medium term planning. They monitor the performance of the organization, control budgets, allocate resources and set policies.

Decisions taken at this level are used to set medium term goals that form stages leading to the accomplishment of the organization’s strategic objectives. Example

Setting a departmental budget

Operational Level

Managers deal with short term planning and day to day to control of the organization’s activities.

The decisions taken at this level direct the organization’s efforts towards meeting the medium-term goals, abiding by the budgets policies and procedures set at the tactical level.

Decisions here tend to be highly structured and have little impact on the organization as a whole.

Example

Setting a daily or weekly production schedule

Decision Characteristics and Management levels

Strategic Tactical Operational
Strategic
Tactical
Operational

Management

Type of Decision

Time Scale

Impact on

Frequency of

organization

Decisions

Level

Strategic

Unstructured

Long

Large

Infrequent

Tactical

Tactical Medium Medium

Medium

Medium

Tactical Medium Medium

Operational

Structured

Short

Small

Frequent

Information Characteristics for decisions by management level

Management

Time

Frequency

Source

Certainty

Scope

Detail

Level

Period

Strategic

Wide

Infrequent

External

Less certain

Wide

Summarized

Tactical

Tactical
Tactical
Tactical
Tactical
Tactical
Tactical

Operational

Narrow

Frequent

Internal

More Certain

Narrow

Detailed

Chapter 6: Basic Concepts- An introduction to Information Systems

A system is composed of a group of related components that work towards a common goal. These components include inputs, processes, outputs, feedback and control.

An information system converts data into information products. This information is used to support the activities of managers. Information systems make use of people resources, hardware resources,

Business information systems take advantage of the benefits of information technology and are often grouped into two broad categories

Operations information systems are concerned with process control, transaction processing and productivity. These include Transaction processing systems, process control systems and office automation systems.

Management information systems provide feedback on organizational activities and support managerial decision-making. These include information reporting systems, decision support systems and executive information systems. Other categories of business information systems include expert systems, business information systems, end user computing systems and strategic information systems.

NB: In order to gain strategic advantage, companies will often adopt one of the three basic competitive strategies: cost leadership, product differentiation or business innovation. Strategic information systems can be used to support attempts to gain competitive advantage through a number of different approaches. These include improving operational efficiency, raising entry barriers, creating high switching costs and gaining information leadership.

Categories of business information systems

Examples of Decisions made

Types of information Systems

Cash flow

forecast

made Types of information Systems Cash flow forecast Tactical Competitor Analysis Executive Information Systems

Tactical

Types of information Systems Cash flow forecast Tactical Competitor Analysis Executive Information Systems Decision

Competitor

Analysis

Executive Information Systems

Decision Support Systems

Strategic

Information reporting systems

Sales order invoice

Operational

Transaction Processing

Office automation systems

Transaction processing systems

Operational systems

Operational systems are used for tasks involved in the daily running of a business. Their performance is often vital to an organization and they are sometimes are described as mission critical or strategic information systems. The three most common types of information systems are: -

Transaction processing systems (TPS)-used to manage the exchange of information and funds between a company and third parties such as customers and distributors

Office automation systems (OAS)- Used to manage the administrative functions in an office environment and are often critical to service based industries.

Process control systems-are important in manufacturing industries for controlling the manufacture of goods.

Transaction processing systems (TPS)

These perform the frequent routine external and internal transactions, which serve the operational level of the organization. Transactions involve recording events within or between a business and third parties, which incorporate the exchange of information regarding different services.

Examples

Customer placing orders for products and services from a company such as making a holiday booking

A company placing orders with a supplier for components from which to make its products

Payments for goods or services received by a third party

A customer visiting a supermarket to shop

A customer ringing a call center of a bank to pay her bills

A withdrawal of money from an auto-teller machine

Although the functions undertaken by TPS are routine and repetitive, they usually perform a vital

function in the organization.

Components of a TPS

Data- Is usually input by being keyed in to onscreen data entry forms such as those used when orders are placed by phone. For retail applications, customer transactions are recorded through bar-code technology.

Database-storage and retrieval are often handled by a database management system except where high performance is required.

There are two main types of transaction processing systems in operation.

Batch systems-collect information on transactions in batches before it is processed at times of lower transaction rates (Such as overnight)

Real-time-Process information immediately

Information from the transaction processing system is accessed in the branch and in head office using online reporting e.g. to find stock availability, or offline reporting where information is stored in a

separate system for detailed analysis.

NB: Because the TPS gives direct contact with customers and suppliers beyond the boundary of an organization, if it fails, it becomes immediately apparent to the organization’s customers. Therefore these are the mission critical systems that must be reliable and secure. Also data captured by TPS is used to monitor the performance of the organization.

Office Automation systems (OAS)

These are information systems intended to increase the productivity of office workers. Examples include: groupware, workflow and general purpose application such as word processors and spreadsheets.

Role of OAS

They coordinate and manage the work of local, professional and information workers within the organization

They link the work being performed across all levels and functions of the organization

They couple the organization to the external environment, including to its clients and suppliers; when you call an organization, you call an office. The roles emphasize the fact that the office should be seen as more than a typing area but rather as a center for exchange of organizational knowledge.

Groupware

This is software that enables information to be shared by people collaborating on solving problems. This could include activities such as the scheduling and running of meetings, sharing documents and communicating over distance.

Groupware assists teams of people in working together because it provides the three Cs’ of communication, collaboration, and coordination.

Communication- this allows information to be shared or sent to others using lectronic mail. Groupware for conferencing is sometimes known as computer-mediated communication software.

Collaboration-this is the act of joint cooperation in solving a business problem or undertaking a task. It reduces problems of traditional meetings, such as finding a place and time to meet, lack of available information or even dominance by one forceful individual in a meeting. It improves the efficiency of decision-making and its effectiveness by encouraging contributions from all group members.

Coordination-Is the act of making sure that a team is working effectively and meeting its goal. This includes distributing tasks to team members, reviewing their performance or perhaps steering an electronic meeting.

Main groupware functions

Groupware function

Application

E-mail and Messaging

Document management and information sharing

Collaborative authoring

Conferencing

Time management

E-mail, Electronic forms processing

Improved information dissemination

Team development of documents

Text conferencing, video conferencing, whiteboarding

Calender and group scheduling

Groupware management and decision support

Ad hoc workflow

Structured workflow

Calendar and scheduling software

Remote and distributed access to facilities including replication and access control

Loosely coupled collaboration

Structured management of tasks

Calendar programs help organize meetings by allowing workgroup members to synchronize schedules. E.g. a user willing to call a meeting can view the schedules of all other workgroup members. Having picked a convenient date, time and location, the user enters this information into a calendar program. The program can then automatically complete the rest of the process e.g. reserving resources such as a meeting room, e-mail messages to remind users of the date of meeting.

Document conferencing software

This allows the members of a workgroup to work simultaneously on a given project. The program automatically updates each user’s view of the document each time a change is made. The program will also maintain a log containing the details of any changes or additions made by individual users.

Document imaging processing (DIP)

DIP systems attempt to alleviate the problems caused by paper-based systems, including the cost of handling large amounts of paperwork and the time wasted searching for paper documents. DIP systems convert documents (and images) into digital format, which allows storage, retrieval, and manipulation of the document on computer. The document is converted using a scanner which can be either handheld or passed over a document, or a flat-bed type where a document is placed on a glass sheet and scanner reader passes under it.

Workflow Management Systems (WFMS)

Workflow is defined as the automation of a business process, in whole or part during which documents, information or tasks are passed from one participant to another for action, according to a set of procedural rules.

Workflow systems are used to automate business processes by providing a structured framework to support the process. They help manage business processes by ensuring that tasks are prioritized to be performed: as soon as possible, by the right people and in the right order.

Process control systems for operations management

Process control systems are used to manage manufacturing type processes. Operations management involves the transformation of inputs, such as raw materials, equipment and labour, into outputs in the form of goods and services.

The three main types of production facility that information systems can be used to support:

Repetitive: Production-line-type systems producing a standard product such as the model T Ford car (this is equivalent of packaged software)

Job shop: production of individual ‘jobs’ for individual customers according to the specific requirements (this is equivalent to bespoke software)

Batch: intermediate between the two, a batch of identical products produced before changing the production set up for the next batch of systems

Applications of process control systems

1)

Managing material flows and production management.

a)

Materials management.

There are three approaches to materials management.

 

Materials Requirements Planning (MRP): Aims to ensure that just the right amount of each item is held at the right time in order to meet the manufacturing schedule.

Master Production Schedule (MPS): identifies what products are needed and when they are needed on customers’ orders held and a forecast of future demand.

Bill of Materials (BOM): Is a file that provides a list of the components required to create each product.

Inventory Status file (ISF): provides information on current stock level of each component.

 

b)

Product /service design and development

Good design of products and services is an essential element in satisfying customer needs.

Information requirements are:

 

Market research to evaluate customer needs

Demand forecasts

Component costing

Technical specification of the product

 

c)

Facility design: this concerns how capacity will be supplied by the organization to meet market demand, that is, it involves the design of production facilities often using CAD/CAM software. Information requirements are:

 

External sources on the state of competition and risks associated with not undertaking a task in-house

Facility location needs to consider long-range demand forecasts and information on the cost of land, the availability of appropriate skilled labour, transportation links and the quality of local education and training services.

2)

Software for operations management

a) Spreadsheets: Used in production planning applications

b) Statistical packages: can be used for applications such as inventory control and production levels using linear programming.

c) Project management software: for project activities (e.g. development of new products). They are useful for tactical management control. The PERT chart indicates the relationships between activities in a project and the Gantt chart indicates the timing of activities.

d) Bar coding: this can scan a bar code on items delivered and components delivered within the production system.

e) Programmable logic controllers: is a device that remembers a series of instructions and then transmits them to a machine.

Management Information Systems

MIS are systems used to support tactical and strategic decision-making.

Decision-making theory

Management level

Decision Types

Information systems support

Strategic

Unstructured Semi-structured Structured
Unstructured
Semi-structured
Structured

Executive information systems

Tactical

Decision support systems

Expert systems

Operational

Transaction processing systems

Example of decision types

Structured decision: operational planning

How should we process a sales order?

How do we perform quality control? E.g. measure conformance of product

Semi-structured decision: tactical planning

How do we target our most profitable customers and what are their characteristics?

Which foreign markets should we target?

What is the best pricing structure for this product?

Unstructured decision: Strategic planning

Which business area should the organization be in?

How should the organization be structured?

What should our distribution channels be?

Decision support systems (DSS)

These are systems that provide information and models in a form to facilitate tactical and strategic decision-making. They support management decision-making by integrating:

Company performance data

Business rules based on decision tables

Analytical tools and models for forecasting and planning

An easy-to-use graphical user interface

They are often developed by end users and are departmental rather than corporate systems. DSS tend to be used for ad hoc queries rather than regular reporting. The technology varies particularly rapidly in this area and the newest developments such as data warehouses attest to this.

Applications

Forecasting sales through geodemographic analysis

Optimizing distribution networks, using a model to select the best retail locations

Optimizing product mixes.

When used by teams of people to make decisions, they are sometimes known as GDSS or group decision support systems. They are often implemented as specialized types of information systems such as data warehousing, expert systems, geographical information systems or even spreadsheet models.

Functions /Objectives

The DSS should provide support for decision-making, but in particular semi-structured and unstructured decisions

The DSS should not focus on a single level of management decision-making, such as tactical. Rather, it should integrate across all levels in recognition of the overlap between operational, tactical and strategic decisions.

The DSS should support all phases of the decision-making process outlined above

The DSS should be easy to use.

Components of DSS

Dialog: This component is used for achieving interaction with the user so they can formulate queries and models and review results.

Data: information may need to be collected from a range of sources such as operational systems, financial accounting systems or document sources such as internal documents or those available on the Internet.

Model: The model component provides an analysis capability for the DSS. A financial model, for example, may predict for given inputs what the future profitability of a company will be if it continues on the present course.

Types of Decision Support Systems

a) Artificial Intelligence (AI). This is the term given to research into how computers reproduce human intelligence. A useful method of considering different types of DSS is to consider the different types of problem they can solve. The problems are considered in terms of four elements:

The data

The problem solving procedures

The goals and constraints

The flexibility of strategies among the procedures The types of problems are:

Type I problems are structured in all of the four elements above

Type II problems have some incomplete data and partly understood goals and constraints

Type III problems are those in which rules can be defined in a knowledge base and the software can then solve problems of a similar type

Type IV problems have aspects of both type II and Type III problems.

b) Expert systems

These are used to represent the knowledge and decision-making skills of specialists so that non- specialists can take decisions. They encapsulate the knowledge of experts by providing tools for the acquisition of knowledge, representation of rules and their enactment as decisions. They need to contain information relevant to taking the decision. This is often referred to as the knowledge base and includes the rules on which the decisions are based.

Applications

Gold prospecting

Medical diagnosis

Credit decisions and insurance underwriting

Product design, management and testing

c) Executive Information Systems

These systems provide senior managers with a system to assist them in taking strategic and tactical decisions. Their purpose is to analyze, compare and highlight trends to help them govern the strategic direction of a company. They are commonly integrated with operational systems, giving managers the

facility to drill down to find out further information on a problem.

EIS are intended as decision support tools for senior managers. Since these strategic decisions are based on a wide range of input information, they always need to be well integrated with operational systems in a business.

Features of EIS

They provide summary information to enable monitoring of business performance. This is often achieved through measures known as critical success factors or key performance indicators.

They are used mainly for strategic decision-making but also provide features, which relate to tactical decision-making.

They provide drill down feature, which gives a manager the opportunity to find out more information necessary to take decision or discover the source of problem.

They provide analysis tools

They must be integrated with other facilities to help manage the solving of problems and the daily running of the business. These include electronic mail and scheduling/ calendar facilities

They integrate data from a wide variety of information sources, including company and external sources such as market and competitor information

They have to be designed according to the needs of managers who do not use computers frequently. They must be intuitive and easy to learn.

Functions of EIS may include: -

Financial reporting

TQM reporting

Management reporting

Profit management

Enterprise budgeting

Executive information

Marketing Information Systems

Marketing refers to the range of specialist marketing functions carried out within many organizations. Such functions include market research, brand/product management, public relations and customer service.

It also refers to an approach or concept that can be used as the guiding philosophy for all functions and activities of an organization. Such a philosophy encompasses all aspects of a business. Business strategy is guided by an organization’s market and competitor focus and everyone in an organization should be required to have a customer focus in their job.

Marketing Information Systems support decisions making at the operational, tactical and strategic levels. At the operational level, distribution information systems and telemarketing systems offer assistance in day-to-day activities and provide information to areas such as inventory and customer

credit systems. Tactical marketing systems provide assistance in such areas as product pricing and sales management information systems. At the strategic level, information from sales forecasting, marketing research and competitive tracking systems helps management plan and develop new products

Application areas for marketing information systems

Sales information systems: employees involved in the sales area are required to identify potential customers, negotiate the sale of goods and services with those customers and provide a follow-up service. Sales information systems are available to support each of these tasks

Distribution information systems: speed of delivery is often an important aspect of service to the customer. In order to ensure this, it is important that tracking systems are in place, which can locate products during distribution of products. These tracking systems incorporate technology such as mobile and satellite communications and open-based computing

Sales order processing systems (SOP): are usually based on financial area and provides a variety of data that can be used for marketing purposes.

Sales and campaign management information systems: Provides information in support of decision making at the tactical level. It will hold information on such aspects as sales performance by geographic area, by product group and sales person.

Product pricing information systems: the price of a good will be dependent on a variety of factors e.g. cost of producing the product or providing service, the required profit margins and the prices of competitor goods. The pricing information system will collate information on cost and predicted market demand at different price points and discounts in order to support the pricing decision.

Sales forecasting information systems: at a strategic level it is necessary to provide sales forecast data in order to help the long range strategic plan

Marketing research and analysis information systems: in order to ensure there is a demand for the organization’s goods and services, it is necessary to undertake market research. For a new product, this may include information on demographic changes and customer feedback from questionnaires and interviews indicating customer preferences.

Competitive tracking: knowledge of competitor prices, products, sales, and promotion is an important factor in the development of a marketing strategy.

Telemarketing software: this software is designed to dial the telephone numbers of potential customers automatically based on customer files maintained in a database. The software will also allow notes to be stored on customer requests, generate follow-up letters and display information gathered on the customer for reference as the call is taking place. Call centers use computer-integrated telephony (CIT) to sell direct product lines such as insurance and personal finance

Chapter 7: Introduction to Health Informatics

Informatics includes the science of information, the practice of information processing, and the engineering of information systems.

Informatics studies the structure, behavior, and interactions of natural and artificial systems that store, process and communicate information.

It also develops its own conceptual and theoretical foundations. Since computers, individuals and organizations all process information, informatics has computational, cognitive and social aspects, including study of the social impact of information technologies.

What is health informatics?

From the French ‘informatique’

Medical informatics, medical computing, computers in medicine,

Interdisciplinary field combining health sciences, computer science, statistics, engineering, management sciences,

Many definitions.

an umbrella term referring to the application of the methodologies and techniques of information science, computing, networking and communications to support health and health related disciplines such as medicine, nursing, pharmacy, dentistry etc……’ WHO

the field that concerns itself with the cognitive, information processing, and communication tools of medical practice, education, and research including the information science and the technology to support these tasks’ (Shortliffe)

Nursing informatics

Nursing informatics is the integration of nursing, its information, and information management with information processing and communication technology, to support the health of people worldwide.

Nursing Informatics is a specialty that integrates nursing science, computer science, and information science to manage and communicate data, information, and knowledge in nursing practice.

Who does health informatics serve?

Patient

Medical Profession

Government Bodies

Primary Care/GP’s

National Agencies

Finance/Admin. Management in Hospitals

Tax Payers

General Population

The public

Policy makers (strategic management)

Regional managers/tactical management

Facility management/operational management

Health care providers

Healthcare researchers

Healthcare educators and their students Will one solution suit all?

What services does Health Informatics involve?

Data processing (health is a data intense industry)

Includes collection, processing, transformation, presentation & use

Communication main emphasis should be on supporting communication between people

Knowledge based services

Includes computerized bibliographic services, on-line collections on non-numerical information such as practice guidelines, pharmacopoeias, essential drug lists, telephone directories, expert, decision-support and reminder systems

What technologies does it employ?

Computers and networks……

But don’t forget paper-based information systems, including input to and output from the computer

Applications of Health Informatics

For recording accurate data

To have data available in a timely manner

Support and inform managers to make better decisions

Resource allocation and planning

Email therapy

Risk management

Training

Support for shared care

Patient Assessment

Evaluation of patient care

Monitoring patients

Staff coordination

Tracking patients in hospital

Stock management

Tracking sterile supplies

Integration engines

Mobile computing

Drug control medication dispensing/ordering

Purchasing equipment

Payroll

Clinical Pathways

Labor management

Patient scheduling

Budget analysis

Research

Word processing

National database

Quality Assurance

Donor databases

Devices

Monitors

Analyzers

Imaging equipment

Imaging systems in Health

Impossible without the use of computers

Computers are used to:

Construct an image from measurements

Obtain an image reconstructed for optimal extraction of a particular feature from an image

Present images

Improve image quality by image processing

Store and retrieve images

Ulstrasound, x-rays, computed tomography, MRI, nuclear imaging etc. .

Telehealth

Telehealth is the delivery of health-related services and information via telecommunications technologies.

Telehealth delivery could be as simple as two health professionals discussing a case over the telephone, or as sophisticated as using videoconferencing to between providers at facilities in two countries, or even as complex as robotic technology.

Telehealth is an expansion of telemedicine, and unlike telemedicine (which more narrowly focuses on the curative aspect) it encompasses preventive, promotive and curative aspects. Originally used to describe administrative or educational functions related to telemedicine, today telehealth stresses a myriad of technology solutions. For example, physicians use email to communicate with patients, order drug prescriptions and provide other health services.

Clinical uses of telehealth technologies

Transmission of medical images for diagnosis (often referred to as store and forward telehealth)

Groups or individuals exchanging health services or education live via videoconference (real-time telehealth)

Transmission of medical data for diagnosis or disease management (sometimes referred to as remote monitoring)

Advice on prevention of diseases and promotion of good health by patient monitoring and follow-up

Nonclinical uses of telehealth technologies

Distance education including continuing medical education, grand rounds, and patient education

Administrative uses including meetings among telehealth networks, supervision, and presentations

Research

Online information and health data management

Healthcare system integration

patient movement and remote admission

Telehealth modes

Telenursing

Refers to the use of telecommunications and information technology for providing nursing services in health care whenever a large physical distance exists between patient and nurse, or between any number of nurses.

As a field it is part of telehealth, and has many points of contacts with other medical and non-medical applications, such as telediagnosis, teleconsultation, telemonitoring, etc.

eHealth

eHealth (also written e-health) is a relatively recent term for healthcare practice which is supported by electronic processes and communication. The term is inconsistently used: some would argue it is interchangeable with health care informatics and a sub set of Health informatics, while others use it in the narrower sense of healthcare practice using the Internet. The term can encompass a range of services that are at the edge of medicine/healthcare and information technology

Electronic Medical Records: enable easy communication of patient data between different healthcare professionals (GPs, specialists, care team, pharmacy)

Telemedicine: includes all types of physical and psychological measurements that do not require a patient to travel to a specialist. When this service works patients need to travel less to a specialist or conversely the specialist has a larger catchment area.

Evidence Based Medicine: entails a system that provides information on appropriate treatment under certain patient conditions. A healthcare professional can look up whether his/her diagnosis is in line with scientific research. The advantage is that the data can be kept up-to-date.

Consumer Health Informatics (or citizen-oriented information provision): both healthy individuals and patients want to be informed on medical topics.

Health knowledge management (or specialist-oriented information provision): e.g. in an overview of latest medical journals, best practice guidelines or epidemiological tracking.

Virtual healthcare teams: consist of healthcare professionals who collaborate and share information on patients through digital equipment.

NB

 

Information Technology is now an integral and essential part of health delivery

IT systems are prevalent in society

Training and education in the appropriate application of IT in healthcare essential

Health sector today

Citizen Centered Care

Health and education are two major consumers of the public purse

Situation in the sector

Cost containment

Information overload (data doubles every five years)

Shared care (team based care)

Technological push vs. demand pull (users driving it)

Clinical focus - Should be driven by supporting clinical needs and not financial management (otherwise solutions in search of problems)

Cost containment is major driving force planning resources (eg. cost of care for diabetes)

Improving quality of care equally important

Distributed organizational structures (independent clinics/labs) strong local autonomy

Accountability

Increased dependence on automation

Emphasis is moving from administrative to clinical information systems

Public has more knowledge about healthcare (NLM, Medline, Web)

Tension between demand for increased quality of care vs. reduction in costs

Efficiency vs. cost-effectiveness

Information overload nos., text, x-rays, ultrasounds

Complex (narrative)

Distributed

Multi-vendor (heterogeneous) no one vendor can support all the processing needs of all systems, GP, A&E

Strong autonomy (need to relinquish a certain amount of autonomy to share data)

Data intensive

Implications for healthcare organizations

Unnecessary duplication of tests and investigations

Valuable time wasted trying to track down relevant information

Studies have shown that at least 20% of healthcare