News | August 21, 2007

NCHICA Emphasizes Nurses' Role in Moving Health IT Initiatives Forward

August 22, 2007 - The North Carolina Healthcare Information and Communications Alliance Inc. (NCHICA) recently hosted “Improving Interoperability on Medical-Surgical Units,” a workshop focused on how nurses can move HIT forward in patient settings efficiently and effectively.
NCHICA is a nonprofit consortium that aims to improve health and care in North Carolina through HIT initiatives.
As the largest single profession in the U.S. healthcare industry and the frontline of patient care, nursing is a critical component of successful HIT adoption. There are more than 2.4 million registered nurses practicing across the nation.
“Nurses are a key component of the brain trust in healthcare,” said Holt Anderson, executive director of NCHICA. “NCHICA understands the necessity of having these individuals at the table when discussing HIT issues and strategy. Their collaboration is the key to understanding where technology solutions are needed—or in need of improvement—at the point of care. Our newly formed nursing workgroup provides an ongoing forum in which these objectives can be accomplished and educates nurses on how to integrate HIT in a manner that is the most beneficial to their patients and the least disruptive to workflow.”
Marilyn Chow, DNSc, RN, FAAN, vice president of Patient Care Services, Program Office, at Kaiser Permanente, provided an overview and preliminary findings of the American Academy of Nursing (AAN) Technology Targets Study, which is funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The study aims to create an effective process for identifying technology solutions to medical-surgical unit workflow inefficiencies, and it will prompt organizations to develop technology that enhances workflow processes.
“Improving the practice environment is essential to retaining nurses, providing safe patient care and increasing the time nurses spend directly with patients,” said Chow. “The Technology Targets Study is evaluating a ‘Technology Drill Down’ process at 25 acute care sites to determine the functional requirements needed to achieve these goals as well as the efficacy and reproducibility of the process itself.”

Additionally, Joyce Sensmeier, MS, RN, BC, CPHIMS, FHIMSS, vice president of informatics for the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), shared information about interoperability, standards and Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise (IHE), an initiative that improves patient care by providing a common framework for implementing standards that harmonize healthcare information exchange.
“Working together, nurses can significantly impact the patient care agenda by getting involved in IHE and other standards efforts,” said Sensmeier. “The presence of nurses in these processes has already produced results—the Clinical Care Classification System nursing terminology is a named standard within the Healthcare Information Technology Standards Panel Interoperability Specification for Electronic Health Records, Biosurveillance and Consumer Empowerment, which was recently accepted by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt. Continued, active involvement by nurses in standards processes such as Use Case development and public comment opportunities will ensure their voices are heard.”
Collaboration during the workshop yielded the formalization of a workgroup to identify the collective actions nurses can take with respect to the use of HIT to improve the quality of health, care and the nursing experience in North Carolina. The first action taken by the workgroup was appointing Rebecca Kitzmiller, MHR, MSN, RN-C, Chair of the North Carolina Nurses Association (NCNA) Council on Nursing Informatics (CoNI), to the North Carolina Health Information Exchange Governance Council, which will develop policies and procedures that enable the timely and secure exchange of electronic health information among its authorized members.
“As a truly diverse profession, nurses meet the needs of patients across many different healthcare settings,” Kitzmiller said. “Forming a nurse advisory group and collaborating with the Governance Council presents a tremendous opportunity to bring the diversity of nursing to strategic healthcare technology decision making, eventually improving the quality of care provided to the people of North Carolina.”
NCHICA joined AAN, the Electronic Health Record Vendors Association, HIMSS, the North Carolina Center for Nursing and NCNA CoNI in sponsoring the workshop, which was held July 30.

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