Informatics is defined by Merriam-Webster as “the collection, classification, storage, retrieval, and dissemination of recorded knowledge” (Informatics, n.d.). The importance for nurses to utilize informatics in the healthcare system is evident in all areas of nursing. McGonigle, Hunter, Sipes, and Hebda (2014) stated that informatics is important in clinical practice by utilizing it “to track patient outcomes, find data trends, and assess workload and interventions” (p. 324). The authors also discuss how informatics can also assist with other areas of nursing including developing technologies that allow nurses and physicians to communicate with patients, improve workflows, and assist patients to manage their medical conditions.
The use of computers in healthcare allows the nurse to provide the patient with education materials; this written material assists the nurse with ongoing education regarding disease management, health promotion, and new medication information. Informatics also allows patients to have access to laboratory data, radiologic test results, and reconciled medications.
Informatics has revolutionized the way healthcare is today; communication, documentation, and all health-related information is now computerized compiling an electronic health record (EHR). The importance of proper documentation is crucial to inform other healthcare professionals when there is a change in patient status, the patient’s current state of health, and disease related symptoms.
According to DeNisco and Barker (2016) documentation is utilized for communication within the healthcare team and other professionals, provides legal support, utilized for reimbursement, supports research, and is used as a way to assess process and performance improvement. Utilizing computerized physician order entry (CPOE) reduces errors due to illegible handwriting, computer safety checks including prompts when ordering medications that the patient may be allergic to, and duplicate medication types.
The EHR can also alert the nurse when the patient meets a certain criterion, such as sepsis, and alerts the nurse to begin a certain protocol. This information provides a continuity of care and safety for patients. The EHR supports better clinical decision-making and better patient outcomes.
The hospital that I am employed at made the change to EHR in December 2011. There were difficulties in changing from the old system to the new EHR and many of the physicians and practitioners had some trouble with order entries.
However, five years later most of the difficulties have been worked out and the EHR is no longer viewed as a source of stress. Nursing informatics has become a rising specialty with the development of the EHR. There has been frustration with the lack of entry-level opportunities available in informatics. “Competition for entry-level positions, predominantly found in large urban centres, is much different from those of 20 years ago. Nurses wanting to specialize in informatics now need to compete with graduates from health informatics credentialing programs” (Carrière, MacDonald, & Chan, p.11, 2016). Nursing informatics positions are predominately in large cities. To be successful in the future, the master’s prepared nurse must have knowledge of clinical process and information technology.
Informatics and the EHR can provide a standard of care when caring for a specific population. The use of EHR utilizes a system that will prompt the healthcare provider to implement a protocol or complete a specific task related to the patient’s diagnosis. According to DeNisco and Barker (2016) referenced the use of EHR to manage immunizations of a pediatric population. The State of Florida Health Department utilizes an EHR to manage all immunizations, regardless of what practitioner administers them. Having all this information on one concise document is easier for both patients and practitioners.