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Why Nurse Leaders Should Know Informatics

If your goal is to become a nurse leader, is imperative that you become familiar with informatics. You will not necessarily need to become a specialist in this area, but you will need to know what it is and how you may eventually use it in your career.

What Is Informatics?

In a nutshell, healthcare professionals use informatics to improve the way they deliver services. When medical personnel access patient records from another hospital, that's an example of informatics at work.

Data drives informatics. The acquisition, storage and retrieval of that data help nurses and other medical professionals provide better care. By using informatics, clinicians can stay better informed, and administrators can track appointments more efficiently.

But informatics also helps patients maintain better control of the healthcare they receive. It allows them to access their electronic records so they can communicate with nurses, doctors and other staff members quickly and easily.

Nursing Informatics

Nursing informatics can be viewed as a subset of general healthcare informatics. It helps nurse leaders combine their analytical and medical skills to provide their patients with the highest quality care.

Take the case of a nurse leader who uses informatics to analyze trends in a patient's care or to identify potential errors in delivering that care. He or she will ensure that data is being used correctly. If the informatics system is not user-friendly, the nurse leader will report issues to the nurse infomaticist or nurse informatics specialist who is responsible for designing the system.

How Nurses Benefit From Informatics

There are several ways nurse leaders employ informatics to help increase patient satisfaction as well as safety.

For example, informatics helps nurse leaders more efficiently communicate with other medical personnel. It provides faster answers so that nurses can spend more time with their patients. Nurses no longer have to waste large chunks of their day trying to track down doctors or other clinicians.

Nurses can also benefit from informatics by using electronic health records (EHR) to do their charting. Using EHR protects nurses should any of their patient care activities be called into question.

Most importantly, informatics helps save patient lives. It helps reduce the risk of errors by making it easier to monitor patients. For instance, nurses can instantly access a patient's records to identify potentially dangerous drug interactions or allergies.

Nursing Informatics and Improved Documentation

There is probably no area of nursing where informatics has had a bigger impact than documentation. This has always been a critical aspect of nursing, and technology has made it more efficient than ever.

Electronic documentation collects and organizes patient records for quick and easy access. Most of the process occurs automatically through connected devices, which provide real-time gathering and distribution of patient information. This helps nurses make better decisions about adjustments to care delivery.

Informatics also helps cut down on errors such as medication mistakes. Electronic documentation reduces the chance that key information will be lost when shared between departments.

It can also help facilitate and smooth out the complex process of patient discharge, which involves collecting information from not only doctors, but also therapists, the billing department, the pharmacy and many others.

Improper gathering of this information could lead to serious problems once a patient returns home. Patients who miss critical instructions could end up jeopardizing their own recovery, for instance. Electronic documentation provides all of that information in an organized, concise manner. This helps improve not only healthcare outcomes but also patient satisfaction.

There is little doubt that informatics has helped improve the quality of care for patients and made life easier on nurses and nurse leaders. But the road to adopting informatics has not always been smooth.

Silencing the Critics

Some veteran nurses are reluctant to embrace technology. They may feel that taking the time to enter records electronically disrupts their routine and takes them away from patients. Thankfully, this is a relatively rare issue today, since nurses have by and large become accustomed to electronic documentation.

As important as informatics has become to the nursing profession, there are still critics who believe nurses are relying too much on technology to the detriment of patients, making care more impersonal. Critics believe that patient-nurse relationships are suffering as a result.

But the evidence says otherwise — and it is overwhelming. Informatics has been shown to improve patient care time and time again. Nurse leaders who are proficient in informatics have the tools to help their staffs increase productivity while providing patients with a high level of care.

Learn more about TAMIU's online Master of Science in Nursing Administration program.


HIMSS: What Is Nursing Informatics?

NCBI: The Role of Nursing Informatics on Promoting Quality of Health Care and the Need for Appropriate Education

EBSCO Health: Five Ways Healthcare Informatics Help Nurses

HIMSS: The Right Balance - Technology and Patient Care

Electronic Health Reporter: How Nurses Are Using Health Informatics to Improve Patient Care

NCBI: The Effect of Hospital Electronic Health Record Adoption on Nurse-Assessed Quality of Care and Patient Safety

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