Maximizing the Value of Technology with Nursing Informatics

The pandemic-driven technological revolution has transformed the healthcare industry more in the past two years than any other period in history. While some changes represent temporary measures, the rapid emergence of digital solutions for clinicians is a trend that will likely continue. Regardless of how effective these technologies are, change is disruptive, and resisting change is a natural tendency that is ingrained in all of us, including doctors and nurses.

To mitigate these human-centric barriers and ensure the least disruption, careful consideration should be given when designing and implementing new technologies used by clinicians. Nursing informatics is a field that has evolved to bridge the gap between a healthcare organization’s technology systems and its clinical staff. In this new era of digitally driven healthcare, nurse informatics play a pivotal role in ensuring the long-term success of new technologies and the doctors, nurses and staff who use them.

What is nursing informatics?

Nursing informatics specialists have played a key role in managing technological change since healthcare organizations began adopting EHRs. Despite its decades-long history, nursing informatics is a field that is not generally recognized. This may be partly due to the ambiguity of the role definition. For example, some believe that nursing informatics falls under medical or clinical informatics, while others argue that it requires its own separate definition. According to the American Nurses Association, nursing informatics combines “nursing science with multiple information and analytical sciences to identify, define, manage, and communicate data, information, knowledge, and wisdom.”

The day-to-day responsibilities of a nurse informatics vary based on an organization’s unique information management needs. In general, nurse informatics play an important role in the design and construction of health care information systems, in addition to selecting, implementing, and connecting these systems for clinical purposes. Nurse informatics can also work in a variety of settings outside of hospitals and healthcare systems, including organizations that don’t directly serve patients, such as a technology provider or an EHR company.

Due to their unique background as both registered nurses and information technology specialists, nurse informatics understand how all the pieces fit together and provide valuable insight into how systems should be designed to optimized use. Understanding how all systems and departments work together within an organization is an essential part of streamlining healthcare operations and making it easier for providers to focus on what’s most important: their patients.

Closing the Value Gap

The need for nursing informaticians has increased dramatically as today’s healthcare professionals navigate healthcare organizations filled with largely disconnected technology systems. This need has been further amplified as the systems needed to deliver superior patient care have multiplied in response to the pandemic. While digital devices and software solutions can help increase providers’ ability to deliver high-quality patient care, it’s not just about having the technology, it’s also about ensuring that the technology is properly implemented.

Studies show the negative impact technology can have when the clinician’s perspective is not taken into account. For example, in a recent survey of over 15,000 healthcare workers, almost a third (32.7%) reported feeling frustrated with healthcare technologies for at least 3-5 days per week. The survey also found that frustration with technology was associated with higher levels of emotional exhaustion and poorer work-life balance. The technology wasn’t the reason for the burnout – it’s how the technology was implemented. And that’s exactly where the role of nursing informatics comes in – determining how technology can best be designed and implemented to help healthcare workers, not hinder them.

The benefits of making it easier for clinicians to adopt and use technology cannot be overstated. In addition to easing the burden on providers, nurse informatics also play a crucial role in improving the quality of care and optimizing patient outcomes. For example, one of the many benefits of integrating technology into healthcare is that it allows providers to glean more information about their patients. This data, however, is only useful if it is collected, analyzed and applied effectively, and this can only happen if providers are able to easily use the organization’s EHR system. Nurse informaticians help ensure that EHRs are easy to use for providers and optimally designed to fit the organization’s workflow. The less time providers spend navigating inefficient technology, the more time they can spend focusing on getting and sharing the right information about their patients.

More recently, the Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance for health systems to develop strategies that facilitate the effective and efficient implementation of telehealth solutions. Nurse informaticians have played a major role in evaluating telehealth platforms to ensure the technology is compatible with outpatient and hospital practice guidelines, in addition to helping implement these systems and train providers on how to use them effectively.

Ultimately, a holistic, data-driven approach to patient care and healthcare operations benefits providers, staff, patients, and organizations. As the role of technology in healthcare continues to expand, the role of nursing informatics in helping healthcare organizations adopt, implement effectively and derive long-term value term of new technologies that improve outcomes for patients and healthcare providers will also increase.

Photo: chanut iamnoy, Getty Images

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