Informatics nurses drive IT adoption, patient safety
CHICAGO—Informatics nurse professionals regularly use their expertise to promote the adoption of more effective, higher quality clinical applications within their organizations, which contributes significantly to patient safety, change management and usability of systems, according to findings from the 2009 Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) Nursing Informatics Impact survey released this week at the 2009 HIMSS conference.

The number of informatics nurses in the U.S. is estimated to be about 8,000, according to the Department of Health & Human Services - Health Resources & Services Administration preliminary findings of the 2004 National Sample Survey of Registered Nurse.

The survey, sponsored by McKesson and conducted by HIMSS, included 432 usable responses from a web-based survey, with data collected between Dec. 8, 2008 and Feb. 10, 2009.

Designed to evaluate the impact that informatics nurses have on the healthcare environment, survey respondents reported an average score of 6.29 on a seven-point scale regarding the value informatics nurses bring to the IT systems implementation process. The research also looked at the impact of informatics nurses on workflow, user/clinician acceptance and screen flow, areas that each received an average score of six or higher.

"With the economic stimulus incentives now confirmed, nurses in clinical informatics become even more vital to technology management as healthcare organizations implement the electronic medical record," said Joyce Sensmeier MS, RN-BC, vice president of informatics for HIMSS. "As clinicians who touch almost all points of care, nurse informaticists provide their expertise to ensure the highest quality care."

The survey also found that most hospitals, care delivery businesses, healthcare IT vendors and consulting organizations employ informatics nurses, whose roles include:

  • User education;
  • System implementation;
  • User support;
  • Workflow analysis; and
  • Gaining buy-in from end-users.

Nearly all respondents noted that informatics nurses play a significant role in user education, and user support was identified by 86 percent of respondents, emphasizing the importance of this role to change management and process improvement.

Respondents also stated that they believe informatics nurses involved in system analysis, design, selection, implementation and optimization of IT have the greatest impact on patient safety (6.21), workflow (6.17) and user/clinician acceptance (6.15). The area with the least impact was integration with other systems (6.03).

Making sure that IT does no harm (5.83) was the concept with the highest average rating relative to the area of impact in which informatics nurses have the most success.

According to the results, 81 percent of respondents whose organization was pursuing medical device integration indicated that informatics nurses were involved with emerging technologies, such as smart devices and remote monitoring.

Survey Demographics
Respondents also provided demographic data that includes the following information:

  • Almost 75 percent of the respondents work for either a hospital or healthcare systems with another 11 percent employed with a vendor organization or consulting firm.
  • The majority of respondents have nursing-related titles, with 18 percent of them representing a nurse executive, such as chief nursing informatics officer, director of nursing/director of nursing informatics or chief nursing officer (CNO).
  • Another 10 percent of the respondents are comprised of non-nursing executives, such as chief information officers, chief operating officers and presidents/CEOs.
  • Some 37 percent hold a bachelor's degree in nursing; another 30 percent reported that they have a master's degree in nursing, while 23 percent have a master's degree in another specialty area.