Nurses 2.0 – The digital transformation of nursing

Digital innovation is becoming increasingly critical to clinical practice, not just as a workforce management tool, but as a foundation to change the way care is delivered. Healthcare IT News spoke to senior nursing informatics officer for Abu Dhabi Health Services, Hana Abu Sharib and professor in health and human services informatics at the University of Eastern Finland, Dr Kaija Saranto, to find out exactly how nurses and midwives are leading the digital transition.

Nurses and midwives have played a key role in leading the digital and informatics arena to improve patient care, particularly in the COVID environment where the quality of digital care delivery has come to the forefront of healthcare and been under more scrutiny than ever. In September, they will be speaking at the HIMSS & Health 2.0 European Digital Event, in the ‘Nurses 2.0’ session, where they will expand on some of these key issues in greater detail.

“During the pandemic, nurse informatics teams were involved in training for different EMR applications and devices for nurse shifting cross settings (ED-OPD-Inpatient) based on operational needs. They were also very actively involved in building the input forms for nursing and addressing the patient surge during the crisis. From a data perspective, they were validating the reports and dashboard,” explains Abu Sharib.  

Saranto adds: “Recording has been more crucial, and a variety of mobile applications have been tested and partly implemented to control the outbreak of the virus. I assume that both nurses and midwives have worked under a heavy pressure to guarantee safety and continuity of care.” 

With the recent growth of digitalisation, nurses and midwives are continuing to lead the digital transition and using informatics to improve patient care.

Saranto said: “The most important or effective key to success is education. I believe that there still is a lot of nurses who do not have proper knowledge and skills to use health information technology tools. Nursing and midwifery programmes have integrated health informatics into their curricula, but it concerns newcomers in the field and the 40 plus age groups are left behind. Thus, in-service training is badly needed.”

Nurses and midwives recognise the importance of this transition and the value of health informatics education and training, as Abu Sharib commented: "RN level and the nursing informatics speciality roles are adopted by many nurses and they are addressed for many clinical documentation requirements or technology adoption as they have advanced knowledge in that field. Nurse informatics is now classified under nursing as one of the specialities acknowledged by senior management.”

In Finland, technology is helping to bring healthcare to the homes of the ageing population, and nursing has subsequently been pushed to the forefront of this community-based care. Finland recently adopted a national information system called Kanta, which includes electronic prescriptions, a patient data repository and an online system which allows patients to view their health information.

Saranto explains: “The situation in Finland is partly easy, but also complicated when we already have 100% EHR coverage in the country. Thus, moving from electronic to electronic systems creates a lot of challenges around how to convince staff that the new system is better. So, the old way was a step-by-step or phased implementation, and now we have moved to big-bang implementations."

The importance of nurse involvement was also highlighted by Saranto, as a way to optimise cooperation between health professionals: “Whatever the model, I think nurses and midwives should be involved right from the beginning and I would like to stress the importance of cooperation between all expert groups.

“Too often nurses and midwives are invited too late to participate in projects. This often leads to misunderstanding and neglects the relation of information flow and work processes. I believe that participation in the HIT projects will also facilitate health informatics (HI) skills, as the need for education becomes real and is attached to your daily practice.”

When discussing the future of innovation and informatics, Saranto said: “Multidisciplinary education is not an innovation, but it is far too seldom used as a model for basic or advanced HI education, although we have encouraging outcomes.

“I have always found IT as a tool to support practice. I hope that those coming to the healthcare arena also have at least minimal knowledge and skills from the context.

“Often in multidisciplinary groups, concepts and terms can cause severe misunderstanding. For example, when planning interfaces. I believe that this could lead to more efficient implementations and satisfied users.”

Abu Sharib concludes: “My hopes are to build the capacity on nurse informatics designated roles in the nursing workforce, and the improvement of nursing informatics use in the innovation of nursing practice based on process enhancement and improving patient outcome.”

Learn more at the HIMSS & Health 2.0 European Digital Event taking place on 7-11 September 2020. 

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