Nursing informatics is not about the use of computers, it is not about the use of gadgets or use of technology. It is about the use of this technology to manage information in the most efficient way. Thus, nursing information management requires the use of the tools provided by the latest technology and the advantages associated with it. The phrase ‘informatics’ was coined in the 1970s from the French term, informatique, to refer to the computer milieu.
It was used to emphasize the computer processing of data and information, whereas nursing data processed by the computer was referred to as nursing informatics. The term ‘nursing informatics’, was originated by Scholes & Barber in 1980 (Scholes et al. 1983). Nursing informatics also refers to computer technology as well as a computer system used to process (transform) input data into output information. (Saba & Saba 2001)
Nursing informatics is a nursing specialty that was approved in 1992 by the American Nurses Association (ANA 1995) It encompasses: (Saba & Saba 2001) 1. computer science (the hardware, including communication capabilities), 2. information science (the software), and 3. nursing science, which encompasses a nursing theory such as the nursing process, a nursing model, and a nursing vocabulary such as the Home Health Care Classification (HHCC) system (Saba & McCormick 2001). Nursing informatics has been defined by several experts.
Saba & McCormick (2001, p. 226) describe it as: The use of technology and/or a computer system to… process… and communicate timely data and information in and across health care facilities that administer nursing services and resources, manage the delivery of patient and nursing care, link research resources and findings to nursing practice, and apply educational resources to nursing education. The following is a description of the use of tools and how nursing informatics is being implemented: (Abrahamsen, 2003)
Personal data assistants: Personal data assistants (PDAs) have grown from simple organizers to detailed methods of accessing health care databases and programs. These applications check for drug interactions, calculate dosages, analyze lab results, schedule procedures, order prescriptions, and automate other clinical tasks, reducing the potential for dangerous errors. Software companies continue to develop applications specifically for nursing. Practitioners can have the latest information and warnings at their fingertips, often with automatic updates.
The method of access varies as much as the technology itself–some companies offer updates as a subscription service, while others offer free updates via Internet download. (Abrahamsen, 2003) Electronic medical records: Despite decades and millions of dollars invested in electronic medical record (EMR) research and development, only about 5% of U. S. hospitals have fully integrated EMR systems. (Abrahamsen, 2003) The problem for most organizations revolves around integrating devices and products that aren’t compatible.
Often, part of the patient record exists electronically, but the rest of it remains on hard copy. Organizations should strive to fully integrate all hard documents into a computerized record, as the method employed to store and maintain data directly impacts timely and accurate care delivery. Fragmented records can cause confusion, communication breakdown, and the opportunity for error. Organizations need clear statements and policies describing their information management process and a system for validating compliance with their own policies.