Dec 6, 2011, 1:00 PM, Posted by Alison Rein
By Alison Rein, Director, AcademyHealth
An expanded role for nursing in the strategic planning and implementation of health information technology (health IT) efforts is warranted for many reasons – some pragmatic and others evidence-based. And, not to be overlooked is the basic fact that nurses are trusted by patients and play a significant role in their care1.
Major events (e.g., HITECH act; PPACA) have accelerated the pace and promise of health IT to support improvements in care delivery, efficiency, and population health. They have also raised concerns about the feasibility of moving forward, absent significant workforce re-alignment. Furthermore, the technical, policy, and workflow challenges associated with executing such large-scale health IT transformations are already causing strain – as evidenced by the general response to Phase 1 Meaningful Use requirements among the physician community2. Proceeding at all, let alone at the desired pace, will require the early and active involvement of nurses who can serve as leaders in this transformation.
Nurses are well qualified to assume this responsibility. They are intimately aware of the failings of paper records and spend far too much of their own time on clinical documentation – time that could be better spent on providing care to patients3. And, as key staff involved in patient intake and information management efforts, they also know that well-designed IT systems are essential to support their own workflows as well as those of other care providers. As noted by Chow and Fong in Connected for Health, their charge (and challenge) was to design an electronic documentation system that captured vital patient information as part of their work, while minimizing burden. They attribute much of their success to the continuous and meaningful engagement of nurses4.