Nursing informatics is moving from a supporting role to one that adds transformative value to implementation and optimization of health IT systems but is facing many challenges in the process.

Releasing the fourth edition of HIMSS Nursing Informatics Workforce Survey at the opening session of Nursing Informatics Symposium at Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) Annual Conference and Exhibition 2014, experts opined that nursing informatics, although gaining wider acceptance, faces many challenges.

Nursing informatics is the specialty that integrates nursing science, Health IT science, and information science to manage and communicate data, information, knowledge, and wisdom in nursing practice.

Nursing informatics supports consumers, 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 Health IT.

“Currently, 30 percent of healthcare organizations support a CNIO (Chief Nursing Informatics Officer) position and the number will grow. Yet nursing leaders must continue promoting the importance of informatics nurses so that they are valued in healthcare teams. As we shift to more inter-professional education in both IT and healthcare, we must make sure that we do not lose nursing content in our zeal to be team players,”

Betsy Weiner, senior associate dean for informatics at Vanderbilt University, said.

“Only now are nurse informaticists really starting to be commonly accepted and some serious challenges are facing this cadre of health workers,”

“More importantly is the need to protect the nurse informaticist workforce that already is in place while getting more students in the doors. As hospitals adjust to new reimbursement schemes by cutting costs that include downsizing of the labor force, the informatics world must make its importance known. We need to protect nurse informaticists to make sure they aren’t at risk because no one knows what they are doing.”

By leveraging communication capabilities of nursing organizations and increasing awareness regarding nursing informatics roles for nurses, the value of informatics nurses can be marketed so that they are valued and included in the nursing and healthcare teams, Weiner said.

nursing informatics

Discussing the findings of the 2014 Nursing Informatics Workforce Survey, Gail E. Latimer, vice president and chief nurse officer at Siemens Healthcare said,

“58 percent of nurse informaticists currently work in hospitals, a number that should drop in coming years as the healthcare enterprise transforms. We’re moving from acute care to coordination of care, and from large IT hardware to cloud technology. We’ve moved from an environment where nurse executives must be aware of IT to requiring that they be knowledgeable of and engaged with IT.”

In the future, applications of nursing informatics will evolve to include:

  • Care coordination and population management
  • Personal genomics treatment options
  • Health IT in the community and in the home
  • Continued adoption of nursing specialty Health IT including telehealth and forensics
  • Patient/family engagement
  • Digital health analytics
  • Health IT and patient safety
  • Healthcare consumer as a partner in digital health models

Despite many challenges, nursing informatics practice is an expanding universe.

The 2014 survey suggested that nurse informaticists will continue to play a crucial role in the development, implementation, and optimization of clinical Health IT applications including nursing clinical documentation, computerized practitioner order entry (CPOE) and electronic medical/health records (EMR/EHR).

“The 2014 workforce survey indicated that there are three particular areas in which nurse informaticists can add value. They include implementing IT systems, the optimization of HIT systems, and providing and defining context for the patient care team,”

Said Ruth Schleyer, chief nursing informatics officer at Providence Health & Services.

In another significant development, HIMSS Foundation and the HIMSS Nursing Informatics Community acquired The Online Journal of Nursing Informatics (OJNI), a free, international, professional, peer-reviewed electronic journal that is published quarterly and supports all functional areas of nursing informatics.

“OJNI’s contribution to nursing’s body of knowledge is widely acknowledged and appreciated,”

Said Joyce Sensmeier, Vice President of Informatics for HIMSS.

“Through the addition of OJNI to the HIMSS Foundation and the HIMSS Nursing Informatics Community, we have an exciting opportunity to further enhance and disseminate nursing informatics knowledge and research.”