Why nurses deserve a seat at the health IT development table

As the use of technology in healthcare becomes more ubiquitous, one question that deserves more attention is that of the role of nurses in making development and implementation decisions; essentially, what should that role be?

In a recent interview, Elizabeth "Betty" Jordan, R.N., an assistant professor at the University of South Florida College of Nursing, said that nurses should be included in all health IT decisions. From conception to evaluation, she said, nurses deserve a seat at the IT table.

"Our healthcare space is getting bigger, and nurses working on those units really rely on technology to be able to communicate," Jordan said. "Once they're comfortable with it, they won't be able to live without it."

In particular, Jordan talked about how often times, nurses are given demonstrations on IT tools that already exist--including tablets and other monitoring devices--but are not given the opportunity to join in on such conversations during the planning stages.

FierceHealthIT Editorial Advisory Board member Theresa Meadows, senior vice president and CIO at Cook Children's Health Care System in Fort Worth, Texas, agreed. Meadows, who also is a registered nurse, told FierceHealthIT that nurses can bring a unique perspective to such discussions because of their involvement in all aspects of care.

"I believe the skill that we bring to the table is the ability to discuss the process of patient care in great detail," Meadows said. "Nurses have the ability to form relationships with patients, physicians and other caregivers; they are trusted advisors. "

Meadows added that 80 percent of a nurse's day consists of decision making, communication and education.

"These skills are critical when deploying technology," she said.

A growing body of evidence seems to support Jordan and Meadows. According to a recently published HIMSS Analytics survey, the field of nursing informatics continues to grow at a rapid pace. Additionally, research published last summer determined home self-monitoring with the support of a remote care nurse to be effective in empowering patients with chronic illness in participating more in their own healthcare.

Considering the federal government's continued emphasis on pushing for increased patient engagement, it would seem a wise decision to involve clinicians who already are proven to be able to "empower patients" in participating in their own care in the development of tools they're very likely to use.

"Nurses will continue to play a key role in the implementation and adoption of technology," Meadows said. "If the nursing staff is positive about adoption, you will find that others will be positive, as well."

On Friday, March 21, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT will conduct a summit just outside of Baltimore that focuses on health IT geared toward nurses. The event is free, and should be a good opportunity for healthcare IT professionals--including, but certainly not limited to nurses--to hear about how technology has impacted, and continues to impact, the nursing community. - Dan @FierceHealthIT