Health informatics is the interdisciplinary practice of designing, developing and applying innovation in information technology to the planning, delivery and management of healthcare. Many disciplines participate in health informatics including management science and engineering, information science, computer sciences and, of course, a few medical specialties. There are four primary areas in which health informatics is practiced, medical or biomedical informatics (physician-based), public health informatics, applied informatics (information management-based) and nursing informatics.
Applying nursing science to information technology, including computer and information sciences, nursing informatics helps patients, nurses and other providers make better health care decisions. By using properly designed and integrated systems, nurses using health informatics to thoroughly document medical histories, statuses and outcomes, assist in providing the best possible care. Because of their more rigorous program of information technology study, nurses with Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degrees are eagerly sought for these positions.
First established as a specialty in 1984, nursing informatics has grown significantly in the last few decades. Early on, it was simply defined as combining nursing with information and computer sciences to facilitate data processing and management, and to support the practice of nursing and delivery of care.
Since then, the field has evolved to address the need to identify and collect new data and communicate it to the various healthcare providers. The American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) has established the Nursing Informatics History Project to preserve a record of the discipline’s history, including the stories of nursing informatics pioneers.
Certified informatics nurses design and implement information systems that make nurse-generated notes more accurate and complete. By capturing important nurse-generated information, these informatics specialists eliminate redundancy, automate data collection, facilitate data analysis and improve nursing efficiency, as well as translate nursing terms for IT personnel. Nurses with BSN degrees are well suited to these critical, technologically demanding jobs because of the inclusion of computer and information sciences in their core curriculum.
The Technology Informatics Guiding Education Reform (TIGER) Initiative has identified nursing informatics competencies and divided them into the following three subsets:
Informatics nurses are proficient with computer use, managing files, word processing, database use, web browsing and using communication technologies (such as email). They also thoroughly understand and practice proper network and data security. More information may be found at European Computer Driving License, the organization from which the TIGER initiative modeled its basic computing competencies.
Nurses skilled in health informatics must be able to identify the nature and extent of information that is needed to ensure the best patient outcomes. Informatics nurses should be proficient with effectively & efficiently accessing, evaluating and critically analyzing data in order to best apply it to nursing practice. Effective nurses will also evaluate the outcomes of the use of that information. The TIGER initiative based these recommendations on the American Library Association’s program on Information Literacy.
Adopting the competencies recommended by Health Level Seven International, the TIGER initiative identified that nurses practicing health informatics needed a thorough understanding of the various types of health information systems, including the range of their uses. Additionally, the initiative determined that informatics nurses had to ensure the confidentiality of protected patient health information through keen focus on controlling access and ensuring information technology security.
Nurses with BSN degrees are competent in all areas of nursing and also receive training in the information technology required to practice health informatics. The additional training received in information systems, quality improvement systems, computational health informatics and regulatory matters better prepares them for nursing informatics careers.
BSN programs instill basic competence in computer use generally, and information technology in particular. Instruction in the use of decision-support systems, evidence-based practice and outcomes tracking, electronic health records, communication devices and care coordination across specialties are among the core skills taught to BSNs. They are also exposed to a greater range of patient monitoring, medication administration and other technologies during their clinical experiences.
When in the workforce, it has been demonstrated that BSNs practicing nursing informatics are highly effective because their training enables them to communicate, manage data and information and adapt to new workflow patterns. Furthermore, BSNs are better prepared for the gathering and documenting of care data into clinical information systems.
Recognized as a specialty by the ANA in 1992, BSNs who practice nursing informatics are the point people for coordinating care among and between all medical providers, essentially managing all patient care information. Certification is even available and provided through the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC).
The growing field of health informatics, and particularly nursing informatics, provides a wealth of opportunity to the properly trained nurse. A Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree provides nurses with the training and skills they require to succeed in health informatics.