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    Nurses are vital to the future of health IT implementation and use

    Without the involvement of nurses at every level, the field of health information technology (IT) would not be successful, according to a number of recent reports.

    Nurses are on the front lines when it comes to designing, implementing and using health IT. Nurse clinicians enter data into electronic health records (EHR) and help educate patients on the use of personal health records. Nurse managers oversee the electronic documentation completed by other nursing staff. The nurse informaticists help develop, implement and optimize HIT systems.

    According to a report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), nurses are not only vital to the creation and implementation of health IT systems, but also to the surveillance and interception of medical errors. Health IT use by nurses also puts them in a position to better facilitate care processes and support more patient-centered care, according to the RWJF. Health IT also helps reduce the amount of time nurses spend on clinical documentation, freeing up more of their time to spend with patients.

    Whatever a nurse’s role, the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, HITECH, meaningful use and other EHR incentive programs, has made involvement in health IT a given across the field.

    Accurate use of health IT has been shown to be cost-effective, help reduce documentation errors, increase safety, and provide health benefits—particularly when it comes to chronic-disease management and preventative care.

    A new survey by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Societ (HIMSS) Nursing Informatics Community reveals that nurse informaticists are especially critical to the development, implementation and optimization of health information systems, as illustrated by the study results. Based on responses from more than 1,000 nursing informatics specialists, 70% have titles that specified an informatics position, which is double the amount from the last HIMSS Nursing Workforce Survey conducted in 2011. The survey results also note that nursing informaticists experienced increased salaries and interest in pursuing additional training in the field.

    “This year’s survey showed a marked growth across the field of nursing informatics, as well as a deeper understanding and recognition of informatics as a nursing specialty,” says Joyce Sensmeier, vice president of informatics for HIMSS. “Nearly two-thirds of respondents have a post-graduate degree and 28% have a master’s degree or PhD in informatics, which points to the fact that the field is rapidly maturing. System optimization/utilization was a new option in the 2014 Survey and selected by 39% of respondents, suggesting that we may be moving beyond simply implementing systems towards leveraging their value.”

    Questions about job satisfaction were added to this year’s survey, and ratings were high, with 57% reporting they were satisfied or highly satisfied.

    Barriers to successful health IT use as indicated by the study were lack of administrative support and staffing resources.

    “The rise of nurse informaticists with advanced degrees suggests that these professionals have significant knowledge and experience to bring to their positions and that administrative support roles have not been adjusted to support this shift,” the report states.

    Additionally, 20% of nurse informaticists have up to five years of clinical bedside experience, up from 12% in 2011, suggesting an increased demand for nurses with a passion and talent for health IT.

    Rachael Zimlich, RN
    Ms Zimlich is a freelance writer in Cleveland, Ohio. She writes regularly for Contemporary Pediatrics, Managed Healthcare Executive, and ...

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