Nursing Informatics: More than Implementations?
By Andrea Hall, MHA, BSN, BS, RN, Director of Clinical Informatics, Shawnee Mission Health
“Here she comes again with a change.” I can see the fear from managers when I stand to present at staff meetings. I see them worrying about the training times, compliance, and education that may come along with whatever new process I am discussing. As a seasoned informaticist, I expect this response. I have become polished in my delivery—starting with the why, referencing the new regulations, and putting the patient first in my language. I remind our managers how often they update their phones, and always close with endless offers of support. Change is a routine, and it’s one I feel comfortable in. But that’s not where informaticists find their passion.
Projects where informaticists find value are often beyond new technology. We thrive on process improvement, knowing that we are allowing providers more time to interact with patients. We get excited identifying and eliminating redundancy. We love to automate or eliminate unnecessary steps from overwhelmed clinicians, streamlining their workflows. We even enjoy helping quality teams go the last mile in their quest to meet unending regulatory requirements.
So how does a nurse informaticist move from being labeled as the change prodder to being consistently invited to the table? For me, it was understanding all the pieces of the puzzle and how they fit together. By thoroughly understanding physician workflow, I could sit in a meeting and advocate for which clinicians should document what element because I had spent time with the providers. I knew what was logical.
I also knew I had a gap in revenue cycle. I am a nurse, so thinking about reimbursement was a foreign concept at the time. I worked in collaboration with our patient financial services team towards a clinically-driven revenue cycle, identifying the ways clinicians impact charging and reimbursement. As I have spent more time in informatics, this information has been the most valuable in my tool box. As my organization continues to grow and new workflows are designed, I understand revenue (or at least the right questions to ask about it).
At Shawnee Mission Health, I am fortunate to work on an informatics team with nurses who are willing to go beyond their comfort zones. They imbed themselves in clinical meetings, sit on process improvement committees, and round each day, talking to clinicians. They work to get ahead of issues and start solution conversations early, determining feasibility before questions are asked. They work as detectives, searching charts and interviewing clinicians to identify what went wrong and how to prevent it in the future.
“Projects where informaticists find value are often beyond new technology”
As we move forward from the past few years of implementation after implementation, I am excited to see clinicians embrace analytics to improve patient care. Hearing leaders include analytics in everyday conversation is now common practice. Clinicians push us to provide easier and more robust reporting tools. It’s an exciting time to work in a field with a dynamic future.
This past year, I had the pleasure of guiding Shawnee Mission Health through a successful HIMSS EMRAM Stage 7 site visit. I am proud of our commitment to technology and even more proud of how far our clinicians have come. They use the technology we give them to improve patient care every day.
Nurses, physicians, and supporting staff choose to work in healthcare to improve the lives of those in our community. I challenge you to take a minute and reflect on how far your hospital has come in the last five years. Step away from the day to day changes, and put aside what new tool is not up to your adoption standards. Really think about how technology has become a staple and valued tool in healthcare, and not a hindrance. Be grateful for questions like “Why can’t the computer do that for me?” and remember that five years ago, you weren’t asked those questions. Celebrate your successes with your team and remind each other why you choose to work in healthcare.