Benefits & Functions of Health Informatics

Instructor: Maya Shapland

Maya has worked in the clinical, education, and management sections of healthcare for over 25 years and holds bachelor's degree in Speech and associate degree in Nursing.

Objectives of this lesson include a discussion of the functions available in health informatics and the benefits of the healthcare technologies for the patients, staff, providers, and organizations.

Health Informatics

Karla is a nurse on a unit that has just transitioned to computer charting on its patients. Integrating computer-based software into her patient care has been a welcome challenge.

Health informatics is the use of technology combined with the science of healthcare to design and build software that stores patient information where it is accessible to those caring for the patient. The electronic health record (EHR) is the hub of the health informatics wheel. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has spearheaded the movement from paper charts to computer-based records. Health information technology has clinical and administrative functionality.

Benefits of Health Informatics

Karla has all her patient information in one place — her computer workstation. No more searching for the paper chart — all information is accessible to those caring for Karla's patient.

The benefits of healthcare informatics have pronounced effects on communication among providers, staff, managers, and patients across many applications. The EHR is providing the framework for caring for patients using software that is specifically designed for access to critical information such as:

  • Lab and X-ray results
  • A patient's history and physical notes
  • Provider orders
  • Medications, allergies, and immunizations
  • Discharge planning

Accurate documentation assists the next person caring for the patient, insurance companies reviewing the record, and administration responsible for managing patient care.

Clinical Decision Support

Having information at the right time is what clinical decision support is all about. Clinical decision support creates knowledge and informational support strategically placed at vulnerable decision points, allowing staff to consider safety, options for care, and education prior to proceeding with care decisions. For example, Karla is on the surgical unit, and her patient is being prepared for a procedure; the protocol requires a shower using a soap the patient is allergic to. The chart sends an alert to inform Karla that her patient is allergic, and then Karla informs the physician who orders a different soap. The patient is protected from an allergic reaction.

Improved Administrative Functionality

Leadership is supported by data that can shape the policy for the organization. Understanding what is happening in the facility can assist leadership to determine education needs, improve quality programs, and create a culture of safety and accountability for the managers and staff.

Improved Quality and Safety

Quality of care delivered with access to knowledge and information are two important factors that can reduce errors and improve positive outcomes. Karla has information available to her as links in the orders and other key areas for quick reference. Technology is improving quality and safety in the following key areas:

  • Clinical workflow can be built into the software that allows a smoother, safer approach to care. For example, Karla has five patients; two of them are more unstable. She has those two on monitors that feed the vital signs to the EHR. Karla can follow their vital signs in the records as she completes her care with the other three patients. This allows her to check on them quickly and intervene if she notes a problem.
  • Nurses can receive alerts regarding a patient's care to prevent orders from being missed.
  • Sharing of data can aid in decision-making with the patient. For example, Karla's patient has a low lab result that needs to be reported to the physician. Lab results are readily available for staff.

Improved Compliance of Accreditation Standards

Many EHR software packages come with the Joint Commission standards embedded into the documentation for providers and staff. Karla's patient is receiving sedation for a procedure. The Joint Commission has standards to address sedation in the documentation that covers all aspects of the care including identification of the correct patient, medication dosage, route, and effect.

Improved Education

Healthcare technology has many facets of patient and staff education embedded in the patient's record. One of Karla's patients is being discharged to go home and needs information about blood thinners. Karla finds the discharge information sheet for her patient in the EHR and prints off a copy for her patient to review and discuss prior to leaving the facility. In the EHR, education tools regarding procedures, medications, and disease processes are available.

Improved Access to Information

Access to information for patients and providers can increase the quality of decision-making and reduce errors resulting from missing documentation. One of the assignments from the ACA for healthcare is to increase interoperability — an ability to share information between providers caring for the patient, third-party payers, and reporting agencies such as public health.

Sharing vital patient information improves care.
EHR Interoperability

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