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Going Beyond the EHR: Health Care Informatics

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Integrating health care sciences, computer science, information science and cognitive science to assist in the management of health care information.

Remember the first day you were required to document your patient’s care on an Electronic Health Record (EHR)?

For years, health care providers produced expertly charted SOAP (subjective, objective, assessment and plan) notes and handwritten plans of care compiled in heavy file folders. Thus, transitioning to the EHR was not always a comfortable process. However, the field has now adapted and found value in its use. As nursing leadership expanded in scope and responsibility, the EHR capabilities supported this growth. Individuals who became RNs or NPs after EHRs became the standard quickly became superusers and technology leaders.

That said, few opportunities have existed for providers to advance further in Health Informatics. Despite the introduction of “health care disruption,” introduced as early as 2000 by innovation and growth expert Clayton M. Christensen, it has only been over the past several years that we have begun to look to disruption for ways to deliver high-quality care for patients at a lower cost while working to satisfy both patients and clinicians.

“As we’re working toward meeting the quadruple aim in health care, we need to consider tools that will help us help both our patients and ourselves,” said Susan Conaty-Buck, DNP, APRN, FNP-C, health care informatics researcher at the University of Delaware and family NP at Nurse Managed Primary Care Clinic. “NPs are leaders in our profession, trained to be able to look for solutions to care for people, whether that’s the best medicine, best tests or best procedures. We should owe it to our patients and ourselves to investigate resources that present opportunities for patients to work with us on their quest for health.”

In addition to an exploding array of technologies available within the health care setting—including telehealth, artificial intelligence, robotics, virtual and augmented reality, interoperability, nutrigenomics and big data analytics—tech giants such as Apple, Google and IBM have also developed products to not only benefit from sales but also from the capture of personal and population health data. This has increased the commercialization of health care by allowing a third partner in the delivery of care.

As patients experience frustration with the lack of access to affordable, patient-centered care, more are adopting corporate solutions, such as wearable health technology, to provide self-care. These can be highly successful at helping patients manage their health, but teaming these with clinician care can significantly boost effectiveness.

“As practitioners, we can help patients stay safe and understand how their data is going to be used, whether we simply accept this data and scan it into their records or update our equipment to seamlessly receive that data to coordinate care,” said Dr. Conaty-Buck. “Ultimately, the goal is to use technology appropriate for what you’re trying to accomplish for care of the patient. For some, that’s what helps you to choose the best care options for your individual patients. For others, it’s how you and your practice will be collecting and using big data to come up with predictive analytics to see trends in patient populations. We entered the health care field to provide exemplary care to our patients, and health informatics is one avenue contributing to making this happen.”

Are you interested in learning more about health informatics?

The Health Informatics and Telehealth Specialty Practice Group (SPG) offers a unique opportunity to interactively collaborate with colleagues who share interest or clinical expertise in health information technology (IT). As an SPG member, you’ll have access to a cutting-edge, online forum where you can engage in discussions, document sharing and knowledge exchange with fellow NPs.

Thank you to Dr. Conaty-Buck for her invaluable assistance with this article.