Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Role of Nurse Informatics in Healthcare

Nurses and computers of olden days never really had much in common. The nurse tended to her patients, and the computer techs administered their computers. Today, nurse informatics have the skills and abilities in both those worlds. As computers and networks are crucial to the very existence of most businesses today, healthcare is-by far---no exception.

Talk about Versatility!

Virtually everything nurses do in diagnosing, treating and caring for patients involves the use of a computer. Computers, along with back-end servers and databases, hold millions of vital patient records and hospital operational programs. All of this information has to be secure, confidential and readily accessible to key healthcare personnel, especially the nurse.

As a nurse informatics, you will have advanced knowledge of in the area of healthcare information systems and how they directly relate to daily operations such as scheduling, research and billing. You will also, typically, be well-trained in such industry standards as DICOM (Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine) and HL7 (Health Level Seven). E-Health, or Electronic Health, is the generally the umbrella term that encompasses all aspects of technology in the workplace that nurse informatics are very familiar with. In addition, being trained-on, maintaining and using hand-held communication devices (e.g. PDA's). This area of the job is referred to as mHealth (mobile health) and refers to all mobile devices that facilitate communication between healthcare providers.

Besides all of the technical aspects you will learn about (including the above), your career as a nurse informatics will entail learning about and applying the broad set of standards there are for electronic health records (EHR), HIPPAA (government-sanctioned confidentially standards) and various standards set forth by the CCHIT, or the Certification Commission for Healthcare Information Technology.

Holy Acronyms!

Wow! Assuming you got through that herd of acronyms above, you may want to know a few more concepts of nurse informatics that are initially easier to understand:

    Nurse informatics understands and applies the key concepts of the previously mentioned standards and many more.
    They understand the inner-workings of the data that is collected, manipulated, stored and retrieved electronically. In addition to patient records and miscellaneous needs---billing and insurance, nurse personnel scheduling and policies/procedures are all stored and transmitted digitally. Therefore, all fall under the helm of the nurse informatics.

Sure, there is a vast, sometimes overwhelming, amount of information nurse informatics must learn and adapt to. However, that only goes with virtually any highly-specialized job in any job market. The following is one of the latest, official definitions:

"Nursing informatics is a specialty that integrates nursing science, computer science, and information science to manage and communicate data, information, and knowledge in nursing practice. Nursing informatics facilitates the integration of data, information, and knowledge to support patients, nurses, and other providers in their decision making in all roles and settings. This support is accomplished through the use of information structures, information processes, and information technology."

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