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The Importance of Health Informatics in Nursing

Nurse using a tablet

The Importance of Health Informatics in Nursing Practice

The demands for nurses in the twenty-first century is increasing exponentially, stretching the profession’s ability to supply these highly-trained professionals to its limits. The forces driving this surge is an overall increase in the lifespan of the population and advancements in the technologies used in the field. The combination of these extenuating circumstances has resulted in a tremendous shortfall in the availability of qualified applicants; applicants who are ready to assume the reigns of a profession that depends more and more on the melding of information and technology.

What is nursing informatics?

This new discipline has even been given its own nomenclature: informatics. This new science, if you will, has been defined by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society as “a specialty that integrates nursing science, computer science, and information science to manage and communicate data, information, knowledge, and wisdom in nursing practice.”[1] Due to the rapid pace of technological advancements in the nursing field, reliance on informatics is increasing at an accelerated pace. While technology has facilitated the accumulation of massive amounts of data, security measures and privacy concerns must continue to be of paramount concern.

In the medical field, detecting problems early is essential. Using HCI devices, like code scanners to enter a patient’s data electronically can save time by quickly alerting them to any changes in the patient’s condition. For example, the ready availability of a patient’s vital signs means that it can be quickly accessed, interpreted and catalogued. The less time the nurse spends on these tasks translates into more time spent formulating a plan of action to combat any possible ailment.

Not only has informatics bridged the gap between information gathering and technology, it has also given birth to a new language that has introduced new methods of documentation and record keeping rooted in the electronic transfer and storage of data. For example, an industry-wide note-keeping framework could help alleviate the burden and backlog caused by antiquated manual paper record keeping.

“Research studies, patient care data, and national and local standards are used to develop informatics programs at healthcare organizations. Other measures include return on investment analysis, patient preferences and/or needs, and infection control data,”[2] says Andrea Lee, a Nurse Manager at the VA Boston Healthcare System in West Roxbury, Mass. By necessity, such a paradigm must bring into play the interests of local governing bodies, suppliers, and hospital administration and staff. Informatics would require that an electronic record be kept regarding everything from the patient’s medical history to his last injection. Should a problem arise, an electronic footprint would be left, making it much easier to find and remedy.

Nursing informatics is a vibrant discipline that is continually expanding, and the challenges nurses face sometimes change before their very eyes. That is why it is incumbent upon the industry to marshal a competent army of skilled nurses, armed with the technological skills that will enhance their abilities to provide the best healthcare.

Why is nursing informatics so important to the healthcare field?

Gone are the days when nurses wrote down a patient’s vitals with pen and paper and then tucked away in a file cabinet. The system has simply become too large and too complex for such an antiquated network. Moreover, the nurse/patient ratio has become so disproportionate such a system would be both untenable and impractical.

Moreover, the American Reinvestment and Recovery act requires that all hospitals and doctor’s offices transition from paper record keeping to EHR. In order for these new guidelines to be fully implemented, a highly-skilled corps of new nurses must be produced who understands the clinical aspects of their job, plus the language of computers. That is where nursing informatics comes in.

So nurses trained in this new and exciting discipline must now wear two hats: one, the diligent nurse practitioner who’s always there to assist and compliment the primary physician, and two, a computer geek who can understand and translate computer language and make sense of all the numbers. And making sense of all the jargon is one of the profession’s most critical elements, as the nurse will be called upon to help analyze the data stored in computer data bases in the form of electronic health records (EHR).

Once the system is in place, these groundbreaking individuals will be called upon to train and support the next wave of nursing informatics that will undoubtedly follow in their footsteps. Ass the vanguard of the new profession, hospital and clinical staff will rely on them heavily for their technical skills and expertise. They will also make sure that all medical shipments from vendors reach the right department.

How nursing informatics can improve employee safety

In a recent study[3], it was found that nurses made up 95% of company safety board memberships. This show a remarkable reliance by companies upon the nursing profession deliver medical services to their employees. And yet, the same study also showed that these same companies were severely deficient in the number of tech-savvy staff required to address safety issues where technology could help. In fact, only 41% of the companies surveyed said they had a represented from the IT department on their safety board.

The disparity between technology representation and nursing led to one unmistakable conclusion: that “If organizations are not going to place information technology staff at the patient safety table, a nurse with information technology knowledge could play a vital role on the committee as well as the successful selection and implementation of technology tools to help improve patient safety.”[4]

Therefore, it is inconceivable that, going forward, companies would leave such a glaring hole in their employees’ protection to persist. Especially when the recommended changes would so favorably impact their bottom line. For example, switching to barcode readers to track the dispensing of medications to staff could not only save money, but it could also reduce medical errors by a whopping 80%.[5]

Another area where nursing informatics could lead to both, a reduction in medical errors, and a healthier bottom line, is in Computerized provider order entry (CPOE). Under this system, the doctor enters all of his requests into an electronic device, rather than the old paper method. A highly-trained nursing informatics would be able to interpret the doctor’s wishes without having anyone interpret them for him or her. This also provides an electronic trail that can be retraced and accessed for verification purposes. That is not the case with paper files, which can easily be lost or misplaced.

This technological advancement has also freed nurses from the tedious and time-consuming task of transcribing orders from physicians, and from having to make repetitive phone calls to verify and correct orders. In addition, test results can now be viewed as soon as they are completed, right at the patient’s bedside—or from anywhere else in the medical facility where there is access to a computer. This means that treatment, which can be critical, can begin forthwith.

The potential benefits to patient care that nursing informatics provides cannot be overstated. The full benefits of this new discipline won’t be fully realized, however, until the informatics principle has been fully implemented. To do so means revolutionizing the way about the nursing profession.

About ADU Online

Adventist University started building its solid foundation for nursing education in 1908 when it began training nurses so healthcare could be provided for more people. Today they offer cutting edge education and experienced faculty dedicated to helping individuals interested in pursuing a bachelor of science in nursing degree.

Sources

(1)(2) The role of informatics in nursing: Nursing made Incredibly Easy. http://journals.lww.com/nursingmadeincrediblyeasy/Fulltext/2014/07000/The_role_of_informatics_in_nursing.12.aspx

(3)(4)(5) Nursing Informatics: Improving Patient Safety with Technology. http://nursezone.com/nursing-news-events/devices-and-technology/Nursing-Informatics-Improving-Patient-Safety-with-Technology_24504.aspx