The healthcare community is ‘abuzz’ with new efforts to accelerate implementation and adoption of EHR systems. In my role as Vice President of Informatics, nearly every day I learn of new EHR projects that are underway, many that involve disengaging from one vendor system and moving forward with another. Interestingly, the general press is nearly silent about the role of nurses in this systems upheaval. Perhaps that is our own doing because we – as nurses – are so ‘heads down’ busy making sure the project plans are in place, the workflow is analyzed and the new systems are optimized.
But, let me take a moment to highlight the nurse’s role in driving technology decisions and ensuring EHR implementations are successful.
Too frequently, nurses are not effectively engaged as leaders of IT projects, and as a result, nursing workflow and even productivity are negatively impacted when systems are poorly designed, or the usability needs of nurses are not addressed. As an informatics nurse who has been active in this space for decades, I know the value of informatics nurses first-hand. Believe me, none of my colleagues are confused about the important role they play in IT system implementations.
Nurses are central to the ARRA principles for ensuring that meaningful use of certified EHRs improves the quality of healthcare by:
• Promoting care coordination
• Improving continuity of care
• Reducing medical errors
• Improving population health
• Reducing health disparities
• Reducing chronic disease
How could we begin to accomplish these clinical outcomes without involving nurses?
The specialty of nursing informatics was first recognized in 1992 by the American Nurses Association with the publication of the Scope of Nursing Informatics Practice. I served as a contributor to a subsequent revision that describes how the specialty is evolving.
Results from a HIMSS survey of healthcare IT leaders identified that informatics nurses involved in system analysis, design, selection, implementation and optimization of IT have the greatest impact on patient safety, workflow and user/clinician acceptance.
According to the 2008 HRSA National Sample Survey of Registered Nurses, there are more than 9,000 informatics nurses in practice today. These informatics nurses work in partnership with chief nursing officers and chief medical informatics officers to ensure that informatics competencies are successfully applied to the complex IT systems being rapidly implemented in healthcare organizations.
Clinical informaticists are in demand to guide these efforts, and recruiters note that salaries are exploding for those with a nursing background. Together, we must work as a team to lead the clinical transformation that is necessary to improve the quality of healthcare through meaningful use of technology.
In future contributions to this blog, I’ll explore how we can raise the visibility and value of nurses to improving patient safety and quality outcomes in the current scramble to take advantage of incentives.