Today, nursing informatics is focused on optimizing processes that directly affect patient care. Informatics nurses are using data and trends to design processes that decrease the time between information availability and direct action related to patient care, enabling quicker delivery of safer care for improved outcomes.
According to HIMSS’ 2015 Impact of the Informatics Nurse Survey, more than 80% of healthcare professionals believe that informatics nurses are most valuable in implementing and optimizing clinical system processes (HIMSS, 2015). This reinforces the use of informatics nurses as subject matter experts during the implementation process and demonstrates their growth potential in the healthcare setting.
New roles and responsibilities
As healthcare IT continues to change, with more complex and integrated systems capturing information related to the patient and the care environment, nursing informatics will have a progressively larger influence on nurses’ responsibilities. Nursing informatics creates a path for nurses to transition from traditional care delivery to analytic roles while still being involved in patient care.
Nurses who may otherwise have left the patient care workforce due to retirement or burnout are now transitioning to informatics. This is a win-win, as these nurses hold a vast amount of clinical experience that can be leveraged in informatics, directly impacting patient care and quality. As the role of nursing informatics continues to mature, nurses are helping to design new units or departments as hospitals upgrade facilities for better efficiency in patient care and technology. Nurses are also working with vendors on the design and execution of systems that are more user-friendly—for patients and providers alike—so that care becomes safer and quality rises.
Additionally, informatics nurses are providing real-time information to proactively educate, notify, and monitor patients and patient populations, improving the health and wellness of communities. Creating meaningful groups of patients based on diseases, locations, and treatments, informatics nurses can look for opportunities to increase the quality of care and better educate patients on everything from current health issues to health and wellness opportunities available to them and their families. Informatics nurses work to empower patients to manage their own health through health information literacy, patient-friendly language, personal health records, and Web- or portal-based resources.
Relation to analytics
Business intelligence and data analytics initiatives continue to grow within nursing informatics departments. Today we see an emphasis on analytics and the development of dashboards that can push relevant information directly to providers, prompting quality decision-making and patient care. With the push for population health and much greater consumer engagement, health systems are also using analytics to
proactively drive quality information to the general patient population. Systems are using tactics ranging from marketing and advertising during high-profile events, like the Super Bowl or the Grammy Awards, to roadside billboards that display a local hospital’s emergency room wait times to its patient community. Such efforts are the direct result of analytics cultivated by informatics nurses, illustrating another example of the expanded role of nursing informatics programs. These tactics use analytics to engage consumers before they need to make healthcare decisions.
The prevalence of nursing informatics
Nursing informatics is a fast-growing discipline. Twelve percent of healthcare facilities reported their organizations created their first informatics position prior to 1995, while the majority (almost 62%) initiated the position in the last 10 years (2005–2015). In 2015, 61% of organizations employed informatics professionals in leadership roles, and 20% had a chief nursing information officer within their organizations (HIMSS, 2015). However, leadership roles aren’t the only positive trend for nursing informatics. The survey also found that the longer a healthcare organization employs informatics professionals, the larger the impact and value these professionals have on clinical systems and overall patient care quality.
With this type of growth, nursing informatics will continue to evolve, effectively merging technology into healthcare in a way that optimizes quality clinical care across the organization.
Dan O’Connor is the vice president of client relations at Stoltenberg Consulting. He is an RN with 20 years of experience in healthcare and clinical informatics and has served in positions ranging from clinical analyst to chief information officer. His areas of expertise include strategic and project planning, clinical transformation, workflow design, IT management, and budgeting. O’Connor may be contacted at email@example.com.
HIMSS. (2015, April). 2015 impact of the informatics nurse survey. Retrieved from http://www.himss.org/ni-impact-survey