The Affordable Care Act and New Nursing Roles

This is my second autumn living in southern California, and the seasonal change continues to catch me by surprise. Leaves are not changing colors, and I don’t feel any crispness in the air. In fact, today it’s 90 degrees! But this fall, there is a big and noticeable change with the Oct.  1 launch of the Health Insurance Marketplace as a key component of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Access to affordable health insurance is now an option for every citizen, and the impact on primary care providers will be notable. For example, in January 2014, more than 5.5 million additional Californians will become eligible for health insurance coverage through the ACA.

How will this new law affect nurses? RNs represent one of the greatest opportunities to meet the challenges of greater demand for services. And one of the top new nursing roles designed to help meet this demand is the Informatics Specialist. This finding is based on research performed by the California Institute for Nursing and Health Care in collaboration with leaders in healthcare from across the state of California.

Five new roles were identified by the Nurse Role Exploration Project as most important for RNs to take on to meet the rapidly expanding demand for health care services in California:

  • Care coordinator
  • Faculty team leader
  • Informatics specialist
  • Nurse/family cooperative facilitator
  • Primary care provider

The report further explores these roles and offers a call to action, noting that informatics specialists can play a role in technology design, data interpretation, and telehealth applications. This research finding comes as no surprise to many of us who are already working in this specialty. However, the report highlights potential new areas of informatics practice, such as using technology in community settings to provide one of the most critical components of care – touch.

This idea suggests the use of technology to create a ‘virtual touch” in order to further support individuals in managing successful independent living. I can easily imagine the virtual pill box with built in reminders, or the ‘activities of daily living’ virtual coach. Nurses understand the context in which health exists for individuals, families and communities. The increased demand for healthcare services offers exciting opportunities to apply our informatics expertise in new and creative ways.

This past week, several nurse leaders shared their thoughts about the important roles nurses play in health reform. Marilyn Tavenner, administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and a registered nurse, recorded a special message for nurses that highlights the critical roles nurses will play in healthcare reform and describes resources that nurses can use to learn more about the Marketplace.

And in her most recent editorial, Pamela Cipriano PhD, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN, Editor-in-Chief, American Nurse Today, reminds us that “we can help our friends, family, and patients navigate the health insurance marketplace. They trust us to have good information.” We need to provide accurate information, and she reminds us that we can take advantage of government sites, such as to become more knowledgeable about available resources.

Nurses are “at the heart of our healthcare system,” according to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who issued a statement highlighting the roles of nurses in the ACA. She further stated that, “the healthcare law’s emphasis on keeping people healthy, preventing illness and managing chronic conditions opens new opportunities for nurses to shape and lead the future delivery of healthcare and capitalizes on the expertise of the nursing profession.”

Have you been impacted by the Affordable Care Act in your role? Please share your thoughts as we work together to advance this important endeavor in order to improve our nation’s health.

About Joyce Sensmeier, MS, RN-BC, CPHIMS, FHIMSS, FAAN

Joyce Sensmeier, RN-BC, MS, CPHIMS, FHIMSS, FAAN, is HIMSS Vice President, Informatics.
This entry was posted in Nursing Informatics, Public Policy and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Affordable Care Act and New Nursing Roles

  1. HMS Media says:

    Great blog, Joyce! I blogged today about a new study linking increased nursing staff levels to lower Medicare readmission penalties. Clearly, nurses are an integral component in healthcare reform. If you would like, please heck out my post here:

  2. Willa Fields says:

    Thanks, Joyce, for recognizing the contributions Informatics Specialists are having on transforming health care in this era of reform. From navigating the health insurance market place to creating usable technological tools to support direct care providers, we are making a difference.

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