Informatics in Healthcare

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Information technology is playing a vital role in allowing nurses to store and share patient data. The practice of processing this data for storage and retrieval is what is known as informatics. As such, information technology is playing an extremely important role in the delivery of health care these days, and one can guess with a fair degree of certainty that it will continue to play a vital part in the future of nursing. In order to make future nurses capable of using this technology, many education programs have started to include information technology courses in their nursing degrees. This practice has been shown to increase nursing student’s abilities with computers, which correlates with an overall improvement in the ability to provide patient care (Gonen, Sharon, Offir, & Lev-Ari, 2014). Thus, nurses of the future not only need to understand the types of information that need to be collected and monitored for their patients, but they also need to know how to work the computer processes responsible for storing this data. This knowledge is what makes up the field of informatics. 

Understanding the role of informatics in healthcare is important to nurses because technology plays an important part in the delivery of care. On top of all the other qualities that nurses must be skilled at, care is the most vital. Indeed, his quality can be viewed as the service that nurses are delivering. Though the methods and practices vary among the duties that nurses must carry out during their jobs, the act of delivering care to a patient is what sits underneath all of them across. Information technology has clearly changed the way that care is delivered to patients over the past few decades. A relevant case study on Theranos, Inc. highlights this change. However, the changes it has brought to the field have not altered the overall responsibility of nurses to bring care. As such, nurses and nurse educators need to view education in informatics for what it is; i.e., a tool which students and nurses alike can learn how to integrate technology into the delivery of care (Cipriano & Hamer, 2013). 

Clearly, informatics has greatly changed the way that nurses deliver care to their patients. As previously touched upon, one of the most significant changes in this domain is the extent to which nursing education needs to change to promote learning in information technology. It has almost always been a struggle in the nursing profession to differentiate a nurses’ contributions from those of doctors and other staff at the hospital. In fact, many do not view a job as a profession until it can be carried out in private practice. Obviously, nurses are not able to do so, yet their jobs still require a high degree of training, preparation, and unique skills. This difficult is becoming even more pronounced with the fact that nurses require education in information technology. As such, some researchers are arguing for a unique terminology to established for the nursing sector with respect to their tasks involving IT. Doing so would help separate the profession into its own unique entity, de-blurring the lines that separate it from the jobs of doctors and IT workers (Schwirian, 2013). 

In promoting a deeper education in informatics and the terminology associated with the field, healthcare educators can do a lot to improve the quality of care exhibited by nurses. A recent survey of over 400 nurses revealed that those who were the most skilled with information technology also showed higher abilities when it came to other tasks associated with nursing (Hsien-Cheng, Sharon, Offir, & Lev-Ari, 2014). As such, one can conclude that the ability to use informatics effectively is highly related to other skills involved with nursing. Once again, this fact makes sense when considers the role of patient care in nursing. Since information technology helps nurses improve the level of care they can deliver to patients, and improvement in the ability to use these technologies should increase the ability to perform other tasks related to the job. In turn, it appears as though informatics are changing health care by offering nurses and doctors a tool that helps them carry out some of the other responsibilities of their jobs. 

One of the main factors in this improvement in nurses’ ability to carry out their jobs is the extent to which information technology is increasing the ease with which workflows. Prior to the advent of information technology, records were kept with pencil and paper. This process required significantly more time for the delivery of healthcare. For example, a doctor would have to record a patient’s information on paper; a member of the hospital staff would need to physically file this information, and then it would need to be physically moved from location to location the next time the patient needed to receive care. With electronic health records, this entire process is funneled down into the steps of keying in a patient’s information via informatics. After doing so, doctors and nurses are able to retrieve a patient’s health care records with the click of a few buttons. This development has greatly increased the workflow within the hospital setting, and consequently, the quality of care that is delivered to patients (Rojas & Seckman, 2014). 

Another way in which informatics is revolutionizing the field of healthcare is the potential for communication that it offers patients and healthcare providers. By storing health information electronically, doctors and nurses have the ability to transfer years’ worth of patient data with the click of a few buttons. Not only is this ability useful during the times that a patient is visiting the doctor, but it can also be used to deliver healthcare when the patient is not in the hospital setting. Namely, electronic health services can be used to do things like set up appointments, remind patients when to take their medication, and allow health care providers to check on a patient’s status without the need for either party to physically visit each other. Once again, these developments are incredibly convenient. The time that is saved through communicating health information electronically can greatly improve the quality of care that is delivered. This is yet another reason why informatics prove to be a quality development and a necessary component of nursing education. 

In spite of these many benefits, a number of concerns also exist with respect to the increased use of informatics. One of these concerns is the extent to which nurses will need to be educated in order to use them. As previously mentioned, informatics requires new types of practices and vocabulary that did not previously fall under the domain of nursing. Such qualities require additional forms of education, and this fact can have the effect of making nursing less accessible. It is no secret that the field of nursing is currently experiencing a shortage of workers. In order to correct this shortage, hospitals will need to recruit and retain older nurses. However, the extent to which nursing is beginning to rely on information technology can crowd out some of these workers. Since information technology is a relatively new development in the field of nursing, many older nurses did not have to be educated in the field. As such, they may be less able to keep up with the demands of using this technology to improve patient care. 

Another difficulty associated with the advent of informatics is the protection of patient data. One of the key principles that guide doctor-patient relationships is the confidentiality of healthcare information. The fear that details of one’s health will be spread among the public can greatly detract from the level of care that one receives. As such, it is expected that healthcare information will be tightly contained within the walls of the hospital. However, the advent of informatics poses a challenge to this value. Rather than writing and storing information physically, the use of electronic health requires doctors and nurses to upload their patient's data onto a system that can potentially be breached by anyone with an internet connection. Thus, it is extremely important for doctors and nurses to follow the strict guidelines that mandate interactions with electronic healthcare data. A lapse in these practices can expose patient data to any parties that are trying to access it.

References

Cipriano, P.F., & Hamer, S. (2013). Enabling the ordinary: More time to care. Nursing, Technology, and Information Systems. Retrieved from https://americannursetoday.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/ant11-Technology-1107.pdf

Gonen, A., Sharon, D., Offir, A., & Lev-Ari, L. (2014). How to enhance nursing students’ intention to use information technology: The first step before integrating it in nursing curriculum. Computers, Informatics, Nursing, 32(6). Retrieved from https://journals.lww.com/cinjournal/Abstract/2014/06000/How_to_Enhance_Nursing_Students__Intention_to_Use.7.aspx

Hsien-Cheng, L., Sharon, D., Offir, A., & Lev-Ari, C. (2014). The influences of computer system success and informatics competencies on organizational impact in nursing environments. Computers, Informatics, Nursing, 32(20). Retrieved from https://journals.lww.com/cinjournal/Abstract/2014/02000/The_Influences_of_Computer_System_Success_and.8.aspx

Rojas, C.L., & Seckman, C.A. (2014). The informatics nurse specialist role in electronic health record usability evaluation. Computers, Informatics, Nursing, 32(5). Retrieved from https://journals.lww.com/cinjournal/Abstract/2014/05000/The_Informatics_Nurse_Specialist_Role_in.4.aspx

Schwirian, P.M. (2013). Informatics and the future of nursing: Harnessing the power of standardized nursing terminology. Bulletin of the Association for Information Science and Technology, 39(5). Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/bult.2013.1720390505