Careers in Healthcare: Health Information Technology – Where do Nurses Fit in?

Health Information Technology, referred to as HIT, is a subject receiving a lot of attention. We hear about it in mass media, in professional journals and in our workplace. With President Obama’s inclusion of HIT as a fundamental element in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, in health care reform, and as an item in the federal budget, it’s on everyone’s mind.

But frequency of hearing about it does not necessarily mean we know what it is and what it means to nurses. In this article, I’ll try to shed some light on it.

What is HIT?

Very simply, HIT is technology that supports clinical and healthcare business decision-making. It integrates knowledge and skills from clinical care, computer technology, business requirements and data management.

From a nurse’s perspective, the most recognized area of HIT is the Electronic Medical/Health Record. By all accounts, this may be the fastest growing segment of HIT today; and, because of the Federal focus mentioned above, the speed of that growth will undoubtedly accelerate.

Why is HIT important?

HIT, when designed, managed and utilized properly, allows a more accurate and timely exchange of patient data and information to improve decision-making – ultimately improving patient care and the organization overall.  HIT is becoming a serious solution to the increasingly high patient acuities, rapid patient turnover, and the constantly changing care management and coding regulations.

What does HIT mean for nurses?

It means different things to different roles:

  1. Clinician: you are or will be documenting in an electronic record.
  2. Manager: you are or will be responsible to assure your staff’s accurate and timely documentation in an electronic record.
  3. Academic Educator: you are and will be facing curriculum redesign to assure student nurses are skilled in basic computer literacy and are oriented to your clinical site’s electronic records.
  4. Post-Academic Educator: you are or will be responsible for staff education EM/HR education programs and competencies.
  5. If your role relies on access to patient care data for analysis and trending, such as Quality Improvement Specialists, Case Managers, Risk Managers and Nurse Researchers, you do or will have a more efficient and functional data set available.
  6. Nurse Informaticist: you are and will be in demand.

The expanding presence of HIT will require all nurses to continuously develop new skills and adjust work redesign.

What is a Nurse Informaticist?

A Nurse Informaticist is an RN who combines nursing skills with computer expertise. She or he uses computers to build, implement or manage systems to support nursing care and provides data to improve the quality and efficiency of patient care.

Nurse Informaticists are employed in hospitals and health systems, insurance companies, health information technology companies and consulting firms. Compensation can be quite high. And, given the current attention to HIT, job security and growth look promising.

Most Nurse Informaticists have received graduate training in informatics. As the field continues to grow, graduate training will become an entry-level requirement.

Additional Resources

If you are interested in learning more about HIT, check out:

American Sentinel also offers the following online health informatics degrees:

I’d like to hear from you. What are your experiences and challenges with health information technology? Please share your methods or strategies with your fellow readers by sending them to me at healthcare@americansentinel.edu. I look forward to hearing from you.

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