In health care settings, the consequences of a bad decision can be dire. Medical professionals need complete, accurate, relevant, and timely information on which to base their decisions about patient care. The field of nursing informatics is dedicated to supporting health care decision-makers by providing the advanced data analytics that medical staff increasingly rely on.
The textbook Nursing Informatics and the Foundation of Knowledge, written by Dee McGonigle and Kathleen Mastrian, was among the first texts for teaching basic to advanced nursing informatics courses. Now in its fourth edition, the book is designed to give students a foundation in bioinformation, data mining, and health information system design. More importantly, the material has been updated to match the fast pace of change in data analytics and health care technology.
Health Care Informatics Past, Present, and Future
Health care informatics integrates medical science with computer, information, and cognitive technologies to enhance information management in health care settings. In 2001, the American Nurses Association first recognized health care informatics as a specialty to create systems supporting communication among nursing and other medical staff. While growth in the field over the past 20 years has been tremendous, nursing informatics promises to have an even greater impact on the future of health care.
The Growing Importance of Information to Quality Health Care Delivery
In 2004, the federal government adopted electronic health records (EHR) as a way to reduce medical errors and improve the safety of patients. The application of nursing informatics in health care settings increased substantially as a result, and the field was boosted further by the government’s decision in 2009 to provide incentives for hospitals and other health care providers to use EHRs as part of the Medicare and Medicaid programs. EHRs streamline the management of medical records by eliminating paper files and reducing data errors, yet the real promise of EHRs lies in the access to the data that supports an evidence-based approach to practice.
Surveys conducted by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) in 2011, 2014, and 2017 found that 82% of people who work in nursing informatics had at least five years of clinical experience before they entered the field. Initially, most nursing informatics professionals were trained on the job, but in recent years more people have been entering the profession after earning a master’s or doctoral degree and postgraduate certificates such as a board certificate from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) or a professional certificate from HIMSS or a project management organization.
It is difficult to underestimate the vital role health informatics will play in the future of health care. Like nearly every other industry, health care organizations continue to generate unprecedented amounts of data, all of which must be managed, analyzed, and converted into knowledge that supports medical decisions.
Providing Students with a Conceptual Perspective of Nursing Informatics
The textbook Nursing Informatics and the Foundation of Knowledge introduces students to the Foundation of Knowledge Model that presents nurses as knowledge workers who collect and manage the organization’s information to create a body of nursing knowledge. Among the informatics competencies covered in the text are Quality and Safety Education in Nursing (QSEN) and the data, information, knowledge, wisdom (DIKW) hierarchy or pyramid.
The coursework comprising Regis College’s online BSN to Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree program ties directly to the concepts covered in Nursing Informatics and the Foundation of Knowledge. The courses help students gain expertise in the health informatics field by teaching concepts ranging from basic to complex. For example, the course Informatics in Healthcare provides students in all five of the BSN to DNP concentrations with a foundation in the application of advanced data management analytics to specific health care settings.
Key Health Care Informatics Concepts
The goal of nursing informatics is to combine nursing and physical sciences with computer and information technology in ways that enhance patient outcomes, improve the delivery of care, and enable regular communications with patients about treatments and healthy lifestyles.
EHR Systems and Wearable Tech as Models of Integration
The impact of nursing informatics is seen in the ways health care systems combine aspects of many old and new processes. For example, EHR systems can now collect and organize a greater amount of information about patients over time, which provides medical staff with a more complete picture of the patient’s health and potential risks. Wearable technology that tracks the level of people’s daily activities can help educate the public about the health benefits of staying active.
The converse of micro-collection of an individual patient’s data is the growing ability of medical information systems to connect globally and share critical updates on epidemics and other threats to public health. The conversion of medical records to EHR systems dramatically increased the amount of health information available for analysis.
Planning Efficient Care Strategies with the Help of Informatics
The emphasis of Nursing Informatics and the Foundation of Knowledge is to teach students nursing informatics competencies in all applications of informatics: practice, education, and research. These skills allow nurses to integrate health technologies into their patients’ lives in ways that increase awareness about the benefits of a proactive approach to health care.
The need to convert large amounts of raw health data into knowledge that enhances health care delivery and patient outcomes has increased demand for nursing professionals able to interpret the data and report their results to health administrators and providers. Among the leadership positions forecast for clinical informatics are chief medical informatics officer, chief health informatics officer, and director of clinical informatics.
Education’s Role in Understanding Health Informatics
The field of health informatics is so new that health care providers and nursing leaders struggle to translate health data into effective policy and patient-care decisions. Educators are in the best position to communicate the results of their research involving health informatics to policy makers and health care professionals.
A Curriculum That Serves as a “Foundation of Knowledge”
At the heart of Regis College’s online BSN to DNP program are courses that build upon the information students learn from Nursing Informatics and the Foundation of Knowledge. In addition to courses in the five nurse practitioner concentrations of Pediatrics, Family, Psychiatric Mental Health, Women’s Health, and Adult Gerontology, the program offers courses in Advanced Research Methods, Epidemiology/Biostatistics, Cultural Perspectives in Health Care, and Health Policy, Politics, and Perspectives.
Applying Health Informatics in Real-World Situations
The growing demand for advanced practice nurses is particularly acute in the health care areas where nursing practice and technology meet. The nexus between sound nursing practice and advanced technology is the province of nursing informatics professionals whose knowledge is grounded in the fundamentals taught in Nursing Informatics and the Foundation of Knowledge. Having a strong understanding of techniques for applying informatics concepts to health care situations prepares students for diverse nursing management and leadership roles.
Preparing Nurse Leaders for Tomorrow’s Data-Driven Health Environments
The same technologies that make possible the tremendous enhancements to the performance and profits of businesses are being applied to realize equivalent improvements in patient outcomes and efficient provision of health care services. Nursing informatics plays a vital role in ensuring health care decision-makers and managers have the information they need to make sound policy and patient-care judgments.
Programs such as Regis College’s online BSN to DNP degree prepare nursing professionals for lead roles in the ongoing transformation of the health care industry. Find out more about the benefits of the program’s supportive environment, flexible schedule, and reputation for academic excellence.
Alliance for Nursing Informatics
American Association of Nurse Practitioners, “Going Beyond the EHR: Health Care Informatics”
American Medical Informatics Association, What Is Informatics?
American Nurse Today, “Nursing Informatics: The EHR and Beyond”
American Nursing Informatics Association
Electronic Health Reporter, “The Future of Health Informatics in 2017—and Beyond”
Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, “Healthcare Informatics”
Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, Nursing Informatics Competencies
Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, What Is Nursing Informatics?
International Society for Knowledge Organization, “Knowledge Pyramid: The DKIW Hierarchy”
Jones & Bartlett Learning, Nursing Informatics and the Foundation of Knowledge
Organization of Nurse Leaders of New Jersey, “Informatics Competencies for Nurses & Nurse Leaders: The ‘Gold’ Standards”
Regis College, Online BSN to Doctor of Nursing Practice
U.S. Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, Health IT Standards