How many of you are facing the hard, fast push to adopt some form of electronic health record system (EHRs) or technology-driven standard of practice? In this current age of connectivity, I would find it hard to believe if it isn’t currently underway or that at some point it was not on the table for discussion.
So, why the essentially sudden push to adopt electronic documentation systems? One simple answer or I should say, common phrase, comes to mind: “If you didn’t document it, it didn’t happen.” I can’t stress enough how important it is that you document, document, document! Accurate and timely documentation of treatment and health history is essential, both for the well-being of the patient and for the sake of the health care provider. But with that documentation how beneficial can it be if it is locked in a file cabinet in the health or medical record office where no other health care discipline has access to it? How accurate can the next assessment be if they are unable to see the whole picture? Let me put it simply…it’s not! This is where EHRs would be of great assistance, to view, observe trends, and analyze vital health information in one location and in real time from all health care disciplines that treated the patient. A University of Pennsylvania study also found that “implementation of a basic EHR may result in improved and more efficient nursing care, better care coordination, and patient safety."
However, there are pros and cons with any new concept and especially in managing confidential and sensitive information that is literally at your fingertips. There are arguments on both sides of the table as to whether health information technology is effective or puts patients’ health and health care providers’ livelihood at more risk. Since when could connectivity ever be a negative thing? Loss of data, breach of health information by an unintended third party, fraud, inaccurate or omission of documentation due to user error are just to name a few.
There are many items to consider before adoption of any new system to help mitigate risks and increase positive health outcomes. First, it is necessary for any institution to consider why they actually need to incorporate daily use of technology by their health care professionals. Is it just a shiny new gadget or just jumping on the bandwagon because everyone else is doing it? What purpose will it serve for your clients/patients, will the benefits of adopting this new technology outweigh the risks of misuse, is there adequate funding to develop and implement it, will there be ongoing training and support for the user, and not to leave out who will assist in its integration? So in addition to determining why an institution needs to adopt EHRs and then deciding who should be a part of the process, it is also important for an institution to consider all characteristics of the users of the new system; educational level, experience with technology, generation, culture, work demands, and occupational position. If not considered, lack of buy-in and push back from those intended to use the product is inevitable.
Nonetheless, integration of a new standard of practice is where it gets exciting. Institutions should value the influence of its employees over adoption of EHRs. Influence is where the institution acquires the buy-in or positive attitude toward change because employees will more than likely feel a sense of ownership, accountability, and responsibility and want to see their input and valued opinions come to fruition. When employees feel as though they are being forced to adapt and adopt, they more than likely will not see the value and feel under appreciated. Therefore, it is crucial yet strategic that nurses should be among those with front row seats from its inception to its maintenance. NRHL 504 Health Care Informatics and Emergent Technologies assists student nurses seeking a MSN degree as a Nurse Educator or Nurse Executive Leader to gain an understanding of essential elements “related to clinical information systems, and how these elements are used to make evidence-based decisions in health care systems and services.” Who else besides a nurse is on the front lines when it comes to patient care and would have first-hand knowledge of how and whether an EHR would work as intended in practice than a nurse? No need to think about it because it’s a no-brainer, the answer is “no one.”
About the Author
Dr. Jasmin Whitfield RN, MSN, MPH, DNP is an adjunct faculty member in the online MSN program at Benedictine University. Her extensive background includes progressive administrative roles in acute rehabilitation services and community health nursing. In addition, Dr. Whitfield is currently accountable for the oversight and organization of the Health Services Department at Sidwell Friends School’s D.C. campus including but not limited to health and wellness promotion and outreach and developing and managing occupational health and safety education, policies, and programming for students and employees. To learn more about Dr. Jasmin Whitfield please visit our online nursing degree faculty section.