The Unique Contributions DNP-Prepared Nurses Bring to Health Informatics

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Nursing informatics integrates nursing science, computer science, and information science to manage knowledge in nursing and draw meaningful insights from collating and analyzing patient data.

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The significant role nursing informatics plays in any healthcare environment cannot be overlooked, nor can the need for doctoral-level nursing leaders in this rapidly growing field.

Nursing informatics continues its forward progress in hospitals and other healthcare settings, thanks to initiatives led by agencies like the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which developed a program encouraging eligible hospitals and critical care access hospitals to adopt, implement, upgrade, and/or demonstrate certified electronic health record technology. These types of major IT initiatives require skilled nurse leaders who can lead teams and make meaningful contributions to ensuring patients receive safe and effective care.

As data analytics now drive decision-making at the system, organizational and clinical level, nurses educated in health informatics through a practice-focused DNP have become integral to reducing costs, ensuring safety and improving patient outcomes.

DNP-Prepared Nurse Informaticists are Critical to Integrating Technology

The Doctor of Nursing Practice in health informatics prepares students for senior positions in an informatics role in any patient care setting large enough to manage large data sets. The Chief Nursing Informatics Officer (CNIO), the chief clinical information officer, the vice president of clinical informatics, and similar roles are becoming key positions in hospitals, integrated health systems and managed care organizations throughout the country.

Informatics nurses educated at the doctoral level are able to address the many healthcare reform initiatives that require patient care organizations to better coordinate care across the continuum, improve patient safety, and better document how care is delivered.

Implementing the Medicare Electronic Health Record Incentive Program

Hospitals are expected to demonstrate meaningful use of EHRs (electronic health records) to qualify for incentives offered through Medicare’s EHR Incentive Program. DNP-educated nurse informaticists have proven to be instrumental in helping organizations meet a variety of meaningful use requirements.

Hospital-based organizations rely on DNP informatics nurses to:

  • Implement the necessary IT infrastructure
  • Integrate IT systems across the healthcare continuum
  • Optimize IT systems for point-of-care data collection and clinical decision support

DNP health informatics leaders are not just needed for the coordination of IT efforts; ancillary services must also be in their wheelhouse. For example, as more healthcare organizations adopt electronic health records, they must collaborate with multiple departments, including pharmacies and laboratories.

CNIOs and other nursing informatics leaders that possess a DNP are able to better understand the nuances of local, state, and national policies, evaluate clinical information systems, and serve as active participants in policy development. They are also prepared to better articulate the data needs for healthcare facilities, which may include selecting and implementing information technology products.

According to The Doctor of Nursing Practice Essentials (3rd Edition, Zaccagnini and White), DNP-prepared nurse informaticists have the skills and knowledge required to help providers implement the CMS program (and earn the related certification) so as to qualify for the meaningful use incentives made available to these organizations for doing so.

Provider training is a necessary component of implementing the program, and DNP nurse informaticists have been critical to improving provider proficiency to ensure the program is implemented successfully.

Project Management

The DNP-prepared informatics nurse is prepared to take on leadership roles in health informatics, particularly in project management:

DNP informatics nurses manage any number of projects; some of can be as extensive as full systems implementation. Their work includes planning, analyzing, designing, implementing, and evaluating a full system development lifecycle. Thanks to their extensive, doctoral-level training, DNP informatics nurses enjoy a deep involvement in all phases of the project lifecycle.

The role of the DNP informatics nurse includes overseeing the work plan, work breakdown structure, project schedules, and project reporting tools. For example, the DNP informatics nurse often uses tracking tools to facilitate the delivery of projects, on time and within budget.

The Doctor of Nursing Practice for Nurses in Health Informatics

The DNP informatics nurse fills a specialty role that has emerged due to the changing demands of our nation’s healthcare system. Both the increasing complexity of patient care and concerns about quality and safety have served as catalysts for increased enrollment into DNP programs.

The National Institute of Health reported that DNP programs in health informatics may lead to “significant transformational change” in healthcare and may encourage the development of a stronger population of CNIOs in healthcare settings.

Educational requirements for chief nursing informatics positions are changing. While the baseline for these leadership roles have long been the master’s degree, more professionals are now pursuing the DNP as a way to prepare for roles in which they would as stewards of healthcare data, information, and knowledge.

The Doctor of Nursing Practice builds on master’s level curriculum, and focuses on:

  • Project management
  • System development life cycle
  • Nursing terminologies
  • Database and technology
  • Knowledge management
  • Decision support systems
  • Related technology courses

DNP programs prepare nurses to:

  • Lead the process of selecting and implementing IT products
  • Become well-versed in the activities of the system’s lifecycle
  • Understand the current literature on informatics implementation and outcomes
  • Learn how to use informatics tools to manage and analyze data needed for knowledge discovery

A number of certifying bodies offer professional certification designed to complement the DNP education, including the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) and the Health Information Management System Society (HIMSS).

The Implementation of Nursing Informatics into the DNP Curriculum

In 1991, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) first recognized that informatics must be an essential technology for healthcare. However, the IOM’s recommendation brought about questions regarding how to integrate it with science, clinical practice, and health systems management.

In 2006, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) championed the DNP for providing innovative, practice-focused leadership for advanced nursing practice and pushed to integrate health information management into the DNP curriculum. The IOM agreed, recommending the systematic integration of informatics knowledge across the DNP curriculum.

The implementation of health informatics into the DNP curriculum prepares advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) and other nurse leaders to use a variety of information resources to retrieve data, information, and knowledge. For example, in statistics, epidemiology, and research courses, students use informatics tools to evaluate knowledge for evidence-based practice and investigate population health.

Health informatics in DNP programs prepares advanced practice nurses, nurse executives, and other nurse leaders to:

  • Assess current practices and design new models
  • Capture, retrieve, and analyze clinical, management, and educational data to evaluate and improve care processes and patient outcomes
  • Search knowledge bases and retrieve relevant scientific evidence, guidelines, and protocols
  • Synthesize evidence and knowledge, track trends, and recommend policies

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