Nurses and Health IT: Two Roads Converge

21 March 2014 | Molly K. McCarthy RN, MBA, Chief Nursing Strategist, Microsoft

Today my colleagues and I will have the pleasure to participate in the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT and the American Nurses Association sponsored meeting “At the Crossroads of Patient Care: Health IT for Nurses and Advanced Practice Nurses Summit” in the Washington, DC area.  Microsoft will network and connect with the heart of patient safety and care—nurses—to listen to how they are addressing the convergence of Health IT and their roles within healthcare.

When I began my career as a NICU nurse, we charted the “old-fashioned” way: paper and pen in the three-ring binder chart which was typically housed at the nursing station.  We also completed a patient assessment and admission history on paper checklist sheets.  Patient education and patient discharge consisted of reviewing paper data sheets and follow-up appointments with the patient. With healthcare reform and implementation of meaningful use, nurses now use an Electronic Medical Record to document, typically done on a desktop computer or computer on wheels (“COWS”).  With the introduction of EMRs, tablets, smartphones and an array of clinical applications, nurses today experience a more mobile clinical workflow and environment, both in the hospital and community settings.  What does this transformation mean for the nursing profession?

Nurses will continue to embrace and utilize new technology to help support critical collaboration, care and patient engagement without compromising patient safety. For example, personal health platforms like Health Vault are being used by hospitals and integrated care networks, such as New York Presbyterian Hospital and the Veterans Administration, in order to activate and engage patients in monitoring their health throughout the care continuum—not just during in-patient stays. 

At the Navy Marine Relief Corps Society, nurses scattered around the globe use the Surface Pro tablet to complete their patient assessments when they visit new moms and their babies post-partum in the home.  They use an application to access patient EMRs in near real-time, facilitate faster communication with other clinicians and physicians, and easily educate and answer health related questions during visits.  Ruthi Moore, Director of Nursing as NMRCS, stated, “With the introduction of the Surface Pro into our clinical workflow, nurses can now complete their assessments and documentation at the point of care.  They can also educate new moms using the Surface tablet. It also enables the nurses to collaborate with each other and with me in a timelier and secure fashion. Even our most reluctant "technophobes" have found they love it!" Positioning technology as a means to improve the work nurses do, as in these examples, is so critical because nurses have their patient’s best interests and optimal health in mind. 

The convergence of nursing and health IT is here.  As Microsoft and other health technology companies expand their product and service offerings, it is vital they engage nurses in the design, development, implementation and evaluation of technology for easier adoption.  The role of the nurse is transforming as these two roads converge, but the nurse remains at the heart of patient safety and care.

Molly K. McCarthy RN, MBA
Chief Nursing Strategist, Microsoft