How nurses can maximize technology use for better patient care

Nurses looking to get the most out of healthcare IT for their patients would be wise to adopt such tools in their own everyday lives, according to Patricia Sengstack, Chief Nursing Informatics Officer at Bon Secours Health System, a Baltimore-based system with 18 acute-care hospitals that spans seven states.

Speaking last week at an IT summit for nurses held by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, the American Nursing Informatics Association and the American Nurses Association, Sengstack (pictured)--who also serves as ANIA president--outlined several tips for nurses who want to embrace their role in health IT. Those tips included:

  • Activate and use your personal health record: Patients are starting to use PHRs, and they're getting really smart and savvy with them, according to Sengstack. "You need to be really smart and really savvy with them, too," she said. "Click on everything and don't be afraid to do something wrong."
  • Put your smartphone to use … and not to take a selfie: More than 50 percent of the population in the U.S. has a smartphone, Sengstack said, citing statistics from the Pew Research Center. "We've got so many apps out there that can collect patient data and send information to providers," she said. "Start thinking about ways you can use your smartphone in a better and more effective way."
  • Chart at the point of care: Don't wait until the end of your shift to input data into a patient's record, Sengstack said. "Care needs to be done in real time." To that end, though, she said that clinicians would benefit from enhanced training for developing interpersonal relationships while using computers.
  • Know the process to request IT enhancements: "I'd be willing to bet that most of you at one time or another have used an electronic health record or another piece of technology and thought there could be a more efficient way to do things," Sengstack said. Instead of working around such problems due to lack of time, she said, find somebody to ask and tell them that you have an idea. "Move on your ideas; take action," Sengstack added. "Don't be shy."

In addition, Sengstack said, nurses should not get in the habit of blaming technology every time something goes wrong. "If you dive a little bit deeper into technology that doesn't work, often times you'll find that processes that such tools are trying to support are a mess," she said. "How can you expect an information system to support a dysfunctional  process? It never will."

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