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What is health informatics, and how is it integrated within nursing practice?

What is health informatics, and how is it integrated within nursing practice?
  • PublishedFebruary 27, 2023

Nursing remains an important part of the whole healthcare system and crucial for providing the best patient care. Nursing professionals are proudly in place to look after patients and lead the industry forward.

Due to its importance, nursing remains a popular career choice for anyone who likes helping people. It is a highly rewarding profession, with caring for others delivering excellent job satisfaction. Nursing is also a wide-ranging sector, and this means that there are many different career paths you could take. 

This can include qualifying as a registered nurse initially before moving into other roles that may require more specialized qualifications. A popular choice in this regard is studying to become a nurse practitioner (NP). There are some great courses that give you the tools needed to move into this primary care role – with the online courses at Carson-Newman University being good examples. To find out whether Carson-Newman’s affordable online NP programs are for you, click here.

Health informatics is central to modern nursing 

Whatever role within nursing you move into, there are some common factors you will encounter. Health informatics is undoubtedly one of these, as something that has become vital in modern nursing practice. While you may have heard of health informatics before, you may not be quite sure what it is or how nurses use it in their day-to-day job. 

The good news is that informatics in health is easy to understand and can actually make it easier to give the best patient care. But what exactly is it? 

What is health informatics? 

Health informatics is becoming a key part of modern healthcare and helps to improve the quality of care provided. It is a diverse field that is continually expanding. In general terms, it is where computer science, information science and patient care intersect. 

Health informatics is primarily concerned with using systems, devices and resources to collect, store and process medical data. This can be specific patient data or information that focuses on healthcare in general. Informatics in health may also look at collecting and processing data around certain parts of the industry. 

Specific areas that health informatics covers include global health informatics, AI, data analysis/collection, consumer health and healthcare research.

Health informatics is a growing field 

Modern society is becoming ever more reliant on technology and its ability to collect data for review, and healthcare is also undergoing a technological revolution. Health informatics is at the forefront of this and is a quickly growing part of modern patient care.

Demand for health informatics is being driven by a desire to use data more and more in modern nursing. This allows healthcare professionals to have the latest patient data to base decisions on and sees them operating from a position of greater knowledge. 

Health informatics also enables nurses to incorporate the latest technology into their roles and become more proficient with IT systems. The global healthcare informatics market size in 2030 is predicted to hit $100bn, and this shows how important it is to the sector. When you think that the market was worth $30bn in 2020, it is clear to see the upward trajectory it is on. 

Why is health informatics important? 

Although we have looked at what healthcare informatics is and how fast it is growing, you may still be wondering why it is so important. To begin with, it helps facilities within the sector to take a more evidence-based approach to patient care. 

The information collected is valuable for enabling nursing staff to make informed, factual decisions on the care they provide. This is much better than relying on mere instinct or making mistakes because you do not have the latest information to hand. By using hard facts, healthcare professionals can get an accurate picture of any patient they treat and access key information on them. 

This could be anything from previous medical conditions to medicine they are allergic to, which may prove pivotal in any treatment moving forward. The net result is that patients get the very best experience, and healthcare professionals operate from a more informed position. 

What else makes health informatics so crucial in healthcare? 

Health informatics is not just related to direct patient care, but also enables leaders within the sector to spot any emerging trends on a local, national, or global scale. They are then able to use this factual evidence to drive positive change in their own facility. If, for example, a chief nursing officer uses health informatics to pinpoint new approaches to patient care that have brought positive results around the country, they can consider bringing them into their own hospital or clinic.  

This field can also give prior warning of any healthcare trends that may prove an issue in the future. Leaders can then prepare their facility properly to deal with any problems causing waves in the industry. As a result, health informatics can see facilities within the sector better positioned to deal with any local, national, or global healthcare trends that could impact them.

Health informatics can help develop new treatments 

Another very good reason that this field is so important to healthcare is how it enables new treatments to be developed for various conditions. These can often be conditions that were considered incurable or illnesses where effective medication was previously seen as impossible to develop.

As with everything in health informatics, this focuses on the data it gives medical researchers and the ability it has to pick up on trends on a macro scale. Health informatics, for example, can allow researchers of a certain condition to access data about people who have experienced it from around the world in a quick, convenient manner. They can then use this information to look for common factors in these patients and how previous treatments may have affected them. This can enable them to make breakthroughs in terms of how it could be treated or what may be causing it. 

Health informatics enables healthcare to evolve 

As well as more informed patient care and the ability to keep up with sector-wide trends, health informatics is also key for helping the industry to evolve. Technology is a key part of society now, and this means that people expect healthcare to incorporate the latest tech. By using the latest IT systems, online platforms and software to collect data, health informatics brings the most sophisticated modern technologies into play. 

Without this ability to make modern tech a central part of patient care, the contemporary healthcare sector may look outdated. This could well see public confidence drop or fewer people seek out treatment at certain clinics or hospitals.

Informatics in healthcare is crucial for helping the industry to move with the times. By bringing the tech needed to facilitate health informatics into the working day of healthcare professionals, it has ensured that the sector is at the cutting edge of modern society.

Reduction in costs for healthcare facilities 

While many of the benefits of health informatics focus on patients and the care they receive, it is an area that can also drive down costs for facilities in the sector. The cost of medical errors in the US is estimated to be around $20bn per annum, and health informatics can help to reduce this for individual hospitals or clinics.

But how is this possible? Systems used in health informatics can use patient data to pick up on potential errors made in treatment decisions before they happen. This could flag a prescribed drug that a patient is allergic to before it is administered. As you can imagine, this is a better patient outcome and avoids the potential cost of a medical negligence claim. 

A health informatics system in healthcare can also help to avoid duplication and mismatches that could occur in the running of a hospital or clinic. This can help to save money by avoiding the duplications or mismatches before they happen. 

How is health informatics integrated within nursing practice? 

Nursing practice is a vital part of the modern health sector and is concerned with the practical application of nursing theories. It allows nurses to take what they have learned when studying and apply it in the real world. There is no doubt that health informatics is a core part of contemporary nursing practice. 

But just how is it integrated in terms of the practical care that nurses give on a daily basis? In a broad sense, the systems, software and platforms involved with health informatics are used by most healthcare professionals daily. The evidence-based approach that health informatics facilitates is also one that the majority of nurses have adopted in recent times. This combination has put informatics in health at the center of modern nursing practice, and it has become very important to how nurses operate. 

What specific areas in nursing practice does health informatics cover? 

While the above shows how the data-driven attitude to patient care powered by health informatics has become integral to the practice of nursing, you may still be wondering how this presents itself in a nurse’s working day. 

Electronic health records 

Perhaps the best example of health informatics influencing nursing practice is the use of electronic health records. As the name suggests, these are entirely digital records that show all of a patient’s medical history and latest notes. 

By storing patient information in an easy-to-access online format, electronic health records have transformed the level of care that patients receive in the modern healthcare sector. They have also led to a more informed, collaborative approach to patient care, as authorized healthcare professionals can get a full picture of their patients’ health to work from. Electronic health records are fairly standard in modern nursing practice and something that most nurses use each day.

Telemedicine 

Telemedicine is a superb example of the relationship between nursing practice and healthcare informatics. Telemedicine sees nurses provide high-level online care to people who cannot attend appointments in person. It has been reported that telemedicine appointments in the US increased by 6,000% in the last few years.

This way of delivering top-class patient care relies on systems supported by health informatics to operate. This is everything from electronic health records, which nurses can access before/during online appointments, to patient data from wearable smart medical devices. 

With smart devices such as the DexCare 50m series of smartwatches for controlling diabetes already showing what can be done in this arena, it is easy to see how the data collected by devices on people’s health can prove useful.

Support systems for decision-making in healthcare 

This is another good example of how health informatics is integrated into nursing practice. As well as relying on the latest data when caring for patients each day, nurses also use support systems that help with clinical decision-making. 

These kinds of systems can prove valuable for helping nurses make the right decisions in terms of individual patient care. They can also flag up any potential areas of concern for a prescribed course of treatment and improve the quality of care. Easy to operate and something that most nurses will use in their normal working day, these kinds of systems show how informatics and nursing practice work in tandem.

Digital provider order entry systems

Applications that enable nurses to enter orders for medical supplies are fairly well integrated into nursing practice now. They are another example of how health informatics has impacted the practice of nursing in recent years. These applications are useful because they allow nursing professionals to electronically order the supplies they need. 

This can improve the workflow of nurses on a day-to-day basis and also ensure that they can easily order any supplies required. Some systems may even store data on current supply levels so that nurses do not order items that are already in stock by mistake. 

Identification of preventable conditions 

Health informatics can also be used in nursing practice to identify patients who are at higher risk of certain conditions. By analyzing the data on a certain illness from informatic systems, nurses can ascertain which demographic is most susceptible. With this information, they can advise anyone in this demographic of the potential risk and show them preventative steps that could prevent it from becoming a problem.

Nurses can also use health informatics in a practical sense to spot health trends within a family. By utilizing informatics systems and AI to sift through their medical history, nurses could spot any common issues. With this data, they can then speak with family members and advise how to best avoid developing the condition identified. 

Improvements to service and nursing management  

Although the examples we have looked at show how health informatics is integrated into the working day of nurses who provide direct patient care, these are not the only nursing professionals who use it regularly. 

Nursing leadership roles also place great emphasis on the data that informatics provides and use the systems it encompasses as part of the job. This is important for nurses in these kinds of positions and allows them to analyze any data collected to improve the quality of care. 

This could be information around patient feedback, which shows where things are working well or where the service needs improving, or it could involve looking at data around when a nursing unit is busiest so that leaders can plan out staff rotas properly. 

Patient portals are also used in modern nursing

There is no doubt that contemporary nursing practice makes great use of informatics in healthcare. This is not just in terms of nurses themselves using informatic systems and the data they provide. Online patient portals now give people 24/7 digital access to their own health data. 

This helps to build a stronger bond between patients and the nurses who treat them. Online patient portals also help people become more invested in their own healthcare and more cooperative with the nurses who treat them. This is because they can read their own notes, which helps them to see why they need treatment and how important the treatment prescribed is for getting better. 

Health informatics is essential in modern nursing practice 

Nursing practice sees healthcare professionals take what they have learned in class and apply it in the real world. To do this effectively, qualified nurses need hard facts to work from and the latest information on the people they are treating. 

For the same reason, nursing leaders need reliable information on how the service they are managing is operating and any upcoming trends across the sector. Health informatics helps in all these instances because it develops systems/platforms to not only collect key data for healthcare professionals, but also to store and analyze it. As a result, healthcare informatics is a crucial part of nursing practice and something that most nurses use in their daily role.

Written By
Jenny

I am the content writer for Allblogsidea, where I love what I do. Writing is my passion; it's what drives me in life. It makes me happy when people share their stories with the world so they can be heard.