This past week was National Health IT Week, and for the second year, HIMSS sponsored Nursing Informatics at the Hill, along with the American Nurses Association (ANA) and the Alliance for Nursing Informatics (ANI).
Members of the 112th Congressional Nursing Caucus joined members of HIMSS Nursing Community at the Capitol Complex to discuss how nurses can influence policy to create healthier communities with nursing informatics and health IT. The event sponsor, Rep. Diane Black (R – Tenn.), is viewed as one of the “rising congressional sophomores to watch.” Rep. Black sits on the House Ways and Means Committee, and, “part of her appeal, is that as a nurse, she can be an authoritative figure when the committee deals with health care legislation.” What a great opportunity that is for a nurse to influence policy!
When preparing our approach for Capitol Hill, members of HIMSS Nursing Informatics Committee met with staff and the Government Relations team to develop our strategy and refine our “asks.” We quickly learned that it’s important to know what to ask when you meet with a member of Congress!
ASK #1 (educate): This session represents subject matter experts in the field of nursing informatics who are uniquely positioned to represent the most important people in the health care conversation—the patients.
ASK #2 (call on us): Nurses are first in line to patient care, and HIMSS, ANI & ANA are first in line to provide Congressional leaders with critical information on how health information technology can lower costs and lead to more robust patient care.
We also prepared for the event by collecting personal stories that demonstrate the impact of nursing and informatics on enabling safer, more effective care. We received more than 50 vignettes, compelling personal stories that illustrate how nurses and nursing informatics are advancing better care, affordable care and healthier communities. We will disseminate these stories in several ways and still welcome your contributions!
Involving Consumers in their eHealth
Earlier in the week, nurses were also on stage in support of ONC’s Consumer Pledge Program. ANI and ANA encouraged nurses nationwide to ask for a copy of their own electronic health record with the launch of a national “Ask for Your eHealth Records Week” campaign. ANI organizations joined forces to ask their members, nurses and clinical colleagues to reach out to their providers for their own digital medical information. Together, these efforts are intended to involve and empower consumers in their health management through the use of information technology.
Nursing’s Role in Policy
This grassroots effort supports the foundation of quality healthcare by asking nurses, who provide care to so many people in many different healthcare settings, to take the lead by requesting their own personal health information. And through this effort, we can act as role models, and educate patients as consumers of healthcare.
It seems clear nurses should have an understanding of current health policy initiatives and advocate for efforts that leverage informatics and technology to improve patient safety and health outcomes. We can take on leadership roles, like Rep. Diane Black, to influence health policy, thereby bringing evidence for decision-making to the point of care, and empowering patients and health care consumers as partners.
Nurses Receive Policy Leadership Awards
As an example, two accomplished nurse leaders working in policy roles were acknowledged this week during the HIMSS Policy Summit. The Federal Policy Leader Award was presented to Mary Wakefield, PhD, RN, Administrator, Health Resources and Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. A rural health advocate and Nurse PhD, Dr. Wakefield has worked with HIMSS and others toward realization of the Nationwide Health Information Network for all communities. Through her leadership, HRSA has administered $2.5 billion in ARRA funds to expand the nation’s healthcare system, address health workforce shortages, and fund hundreds of health centers’ efforts to adopt health IT solutions.
And, the 2012 HIMSS State Policy Leader Award winner was the Honorable Linda Upmeyer, Iowa House of Representatives. She was first elected to the Iowa State Legislature in 2002, where she serves as House Majority Leader and as a member of the Administration and Rules committee. Rep. Upmeyer has been a strong supporter of HIMSS and health IT for the last 10 years, regularly introducing and supporting health IT legislation.
Were you a part of the National Health IT week activities? If so, what was your experience? Do you have a story to share about how informatics made a positive impact on patient care?
I welcome your thoughts and look forward to our ongoing dialogue.