Recently I attend the Nursing Informatics Australia annual conference in Melbourne. The theme of the conference was the role of the nurse in digital health innovation for consumers, clinicians, connectivity and community.
This forum provided a platform to hear about the many nurse led innovative programs being implemented across the country, using digital health technology. We heard about using a data linkage to map and assess outcomes of telephone triage and advice services, and how effective wound imaging can support clinical assessment across great distances.
I find the use of digital technology one of the most exciting developments for our professions. Potentially digital health innovation will have the greatest influence over the next decade, on improving health outcomes for the people for whom we provide care.
The last session of the conference focused on the challenges nurses and midwives face in the digital healthcare environment. This discussion reinforced the importance of all nurses and midwives engaging more fully in the use of informatics.
Nursing informatics is defined as the practice of using nursing science and technology to enhance the pathway that data takes to become knowledge to improve patient care (McGonigle et al, 2014).
Informatics is not new to nurses and midwives. We have been using our scientific knowledge and information to enhance the care we provide since our professions first began. What is changing is the way we are collecting information or data, and the speed at which it can be aggregated or combined and analysed. In this rapidly evolving space, it is essential nurses and midwives recognise the importance of the role they play in collecting information and using information communications technology (ICT). The role of nurses and midwives may vary, such as a Chief Nurse Information Officer in a major tertiary hospital, a nurse or midwife using digital devices in the provision of direct care for people in a community setting or a nurse or midwife informatician in a healthcare service. Despite their varied roles, they all play an essential part in using digital technology to enhance nursing and midwifery practice.
Nurses and midwives are collecting data in everyday practice and using tools such as an electronic health record or a triage and tracking system to collect and store data. These activities are essential to improving health outcomes. At all points along the care continuum, nurses and midwives input data into a variety of electronic systems, which should be connected and communicate with each other. This connection and exchange of data between systems is known as ‘interoperability’. The value of the appropriate management of data in improving care outcomes cannot be underestimated.
It is imperative that all nurses and midwives understand the data they are collecting, understand why it is being collected and most importantly, how to effectively enter this data, for the safe delivery of quality care. I urge you to become engaged in ICT within your workplace, and for those who are inclined to take the next step, become a nurse or midwife informatician. Get involved in designing data systems, or analysing data, or participate in an ICT project, to educate and engage other nurses and midwives in informatics. It’s an exciting area and one where nursing and midwifery roles are, and should be, developing and expanding. To help nurses and midwives further understand their role in informatics, the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF), with funds provided by the then Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing, completed a project to develop National Informatics Standards for Nurses and Midwives.
The aim of the project was to develop standards that could facilitate ongoing development of a skilled, capable and informed nursing and midwifery workforce, capable of using the tools technology provides, in order to deliver safer, better integrated care. The standards were developed following a review of the literature and using data derived from focus groups of nurses and midwives, responses to an online survey and individual interviews.
The ANMF standards project confirmed the importance of informatics in nursing and midwifery practice, with the standards providing three main domain areas of focus for nurses and midwives in developing their competence, namely: computer literacy, information literacy and information management.
The ANMF standards should always be viewed in conjunction with the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia’s (NMBA) standards for practice for the registered nurse, enrolled nurse or midwife, which provide the regulatory framework for the professions. The NMBA standards for practice refer to informatics in a broader context of nursing and midwifery practice, whereas the ANMF informatics standards provide a more detailed resource and a valuable tool for nurses and midwives to assist them to build capability in informatics to enhance their practice and thereby improve health outcomes.
The ANMF National Informatics Standards for Nurses and Midwives are available to download from the ANMF Federal Office website here.
Federal Professional Officer
McGonigle.D., Hunter.K.,Sipes. C. and Hebda.T. (2014) Why nurses need to understand nursing informatics. AORN, Vol 100, No. 3. p324-7