The healthcare sector is in the age of the information economy, which refers to utilizing technologies to enhance process efficiencies. Nursing informatics is the branch of nursing that deals with the information economy created by advancements in technology use in medicine. This branch of nursing provides solutions based on data collected from various data points. Significant improvements in healthcare such as clinical, managerial, and policy decisions have been impacted by nursing informatics. This essay focuses on informatics nurses’ current and future roles, various aspects of connected health, and the impact of informatics in healthcare management.
Nursing informatics refers to using science and technology to help healthcare practitioners deliver better healthcare to patients. It deals with the technologies used by nurses, such as Electronic Health Records (EHR), and healthcare processes such as nursing documentation interrelate to transform patient care and clinical data into useful, meaningful, and relevant information in nursing practice. The focus is on nurses and how technologies support and facilitate safe patient care.
Current Role of Informatics Nurses
The current role of informatics nurses includes system implementation and maintenance, data analysis, system optimization, and collaboration. Informatics nurses are responsible for implementing clinical information systems by leading and coordinating projects to implement or upgrade the Electronic Health Record (EHR) system. An informatics nurse also plays a vital role in ensuring that the EHR system runs smoothly by troubleshooting systems and process issues. In addition, they streamline activities by making changes to specific parts to avoid bottlenecks. Another vital role of informatics nurses is end-user education and training, especially regarding the practical use of technologies involving patient care.
Informatics nurses also promote and reinforce guidelines and policies around patient safety, data privacy, and confidentiality. An informatics nurse may also perform data analysis and reporting. This role may involve extracting data from an EHR and creating reports that can be used for day-to-day operations, health research, and predictive analysis. In addition, informatics nurses also provide proof of compliance with federal and state mandates. An informatics nurse works closely with other healthcare team members to ensure the proper functioning of EHR and patient care technologies. An informatics nurse acts as a liaison between clinicians and technical experts. In addition, informatics nurses create protocols to ensure seamless communication interactions involving the multi-disciplinary team (University of Illinois Chicago, 2018). Informatics nurses are also involved in system optimizations relating to the continuous improvement of EHR systems and other healthcare technologies. The knowledge and skills in workflow analysis enable an informatics nurse to lead efforts to improve the usability of information systems in practice settings.
Future Role of Informatics Nurses
The future role of informatics nurses will be commensurate with the advancement of healthcare technology such as telehealth, data security, and big data. Therefore, the future role of informatics nurses will include the adjusted workflows, especially in telehealth. For example, the onset of Covid-19 increased telehealth visits; thus, informatics nurses will have to modify the existing workflows to capture consent and document the virtual visits. In addition, informatics nurses will have to test technology and the workflows before deployment to the end-users.
Informatics nurses will also analyze patterns and provide predictive assessments to patients with monitoring devices to improve the reliability of the data. In addition, the increase in connectivity in terms of electronic records will increase security concerns. Over the past decade, the use of Electronic Health Records (EHR) has expanded rapidly with the increased usage of technology in nursing practice. By 2017, 95% of hospitals and 80% of physician offices nationwide had adopted certified EHR technologies; thus, informatics nurses will be at the forefront of improving data security. Informatics nurses will also support data analysis, particularly big data. Big data incorporates the analysis of large data sets to enhance the quality of care. Informatics nurse’s job descriptions will include data harmonization and data mining to capture and identify patterns regarding the unstructured data.
Connected health refers to a model of healthcare management that leverages technology for the delivery and management of healthcare services. Connected health works by collecting and transmitting the patient’s data in such a way that the patient receives efficient and proactive care. The data is made available to healthcare providers and patients through a cloud-based platform that allows the timely sharing of accurate data. Medical devices use sensors and wireless connectivity to bridge the gap between patient, patient health, and provider. The adoption of connected health has been propelled by innovation in wearable devices and the health climate in the post-Covid-19 era.
Today’s healthcare system’s top connected health tools include telehealth, remote patient monitoring tools, and secure messaging tools (Dey, Ashour, & Bhatt, 2017). Telehealth refers to the delivery of healthcare, health information, and health education through remote technologies such as mobile devices and computers. Telehealth increases access to healthcare for people with disabilities, geographically isolated, and older adults since it has overcome various barriers through technology. Telehealth also limits the risk of infection since the patient receives care from the safety of their homes. The lack of contact with other patients eliminates the risk of contracting an infection such as the Covid-19 pandemic; thus, the care is given without jeopardizing their health. Telehealth also leads to better healthcare outcomes since follow-up regarding treatment is easy, thus preventing repeat hospital visits.
Telehealth also has its drawbacks, such as limiting certain types of assessments that cannot be done remotely. In addition, some diagnoses require a more hands-on approach, such as blood tests and imaging tests that require physical examination; thus, healthcare delivery is affected. Telehealth can also comprise treatment where patients exclude critical symptoms leading to a misdiagnosis. In addition, the security of electronic health records is a concern since patient data is prone to hacking attempts. Furthermore, not all telehealth services are fully covered by insurance, thus leading to increased costs borne by the patient.
Remote patient monitoring (RPM) refers to technology that enables healthcare providers to evaluate varied metrics regarding a patient’s health outside the traditional clinical settings. The collection and transmission of RPM data are through the use of wearable devices that transfer vital metric data such as blood pressure, oxygen levels, respiratory rates, and cardiac rates to healthcare providers for assessment (Pattichis & Panayides, 2019). It also facilitates monitoring chronic conditions such as diabetes and hypertension since the patient data is shared in real-time with health professionals. The real-time sharing of patient data also improves patient’s quality of life. The advantages of RPM include the early detection of complications, thus reducing the risk of a full-blown illness. The most prominent obstacle regarding the use of RPMs in healthcare is the lack of reliability and accuracy of wearable devices. Some wearable devices have significant variations of accuracy with margin errors of 25%.
Secure messaging tools allow patients and healthcare providers to communicate through personal mobile devices in real-time. Secure messaging apps are integrated with patient portals, thus ensuring seamless communication. The advantages of secure messaging include improved patient follow-up after a discharge since patients can ask questions regarding their treatment. Secure messages are not stand-ins for providing care, but they can mitigate patient concerns. In some cases, secure messages can let patients know that they do not necessarily need to visit the doctor’s office, saving both patient and medical industry time and money. Secure messaging also saves time due to the effective information transfer and access to more accurate clinical information. However, secure messaging also increases healthcare providers’ workload when patients send complex, ambiguous, and too-long messages.
Impact of Informatics on Public Health
Health informatics significantly reduces medical errors, prescription errors and prevents harmful. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), medication errors impact nearly 1.5 million patients annually. In addition, errors such as incomplete treatment of diseases, improper use of medical equipment, miscommunication between healthcare professionals, and incorrect recording of patient’s data result in worsened medical conditions and compromise the patient’s health. Health informatics reduce the frequency of medical errors by incorporating technologies such as Computer Provider Order Entry Systems (CPOE) and Clinical Decision Support Systems (CDSS). These systems detect mismatches and duplications by cross-referencing prescriptions with patient records and automating dispensing cabinets to give the correct medications.
Health informatics also improves patient participation in healthcare management. Patients are empowered to play an active role in their health since they have access to their electronic records regarding their health history and recommendations (McCullough, Parente & Town, 2016). Patients educate themselves regarding their diagnoses and prognosis, thus tracking their medication and symptoms more proactively. Patients interact more freely with healthcare professionals since they deem themselves part of the healthcare team, thus yielding better results. In addition, health informatics improves communication between patients and providers.
Healthcare informatics also improves patient record retrieval and accuracy in diagnosis. Healthcare informatics is essential to delivering quality care through accurate assessment of patients’ medical records and treating patients based on individual needs. Health informatics streamlines the storage and retrieval of medical records, thus reducing conflicting treatments such as medicine prescriptions resulting in allergic reactions. Health informatics enables healthcare providers to view the patient medical history in real-time due to the simplified retrieval method. In addition, the automation of patient data minimizes the repetition; thus, the data is accurate.
Health informatics has expanded access to healthcare through telehealth and technological advancements in medicine. Virtual healthcare systems make it easier for marginalized patients to consult with providers without geographical limitations. Healthcare informatics also improve the quality of care through data collection and analysis. There is an increase in the responsiveness of patient care and personalized treatments exacerbated by the collection of large amounts of data. Healthcare informatics also ensures proper reimbursements under Medicare and Medicaid since it speeds up the flow of information between insurers and healthcare providers.
This essay analyzes the roles of informatics nurses, the various aspects of connected health, and the impact of informatics in public health. The current role of informatics nurses includes system implementation and maintenance, data analysis, system optimization, and collaboration. The future role of informatics nurses is embedded with telehealth, data security, and big data. The various types of connected health include telehealth, remote patient monitoring, and secure messaging tools. Finally, the impact of healthcare informatics in public health includes reducing medical errors, improved patient participation, improved patient record retrieval, and expanded access to healthcare.