Here’s a typical scenario in today’s fast-paced hospital environment: The hospital is at risk for not hitting its targets on meaningful use and must quickly determine the underlying factors. Where exactly are the breakdowns? Is it a documentation challenge or a technology issue? Enter the nurse informatacist – chief trouble shooter and hospital change agent.
Today’s chief nursing informatics officer (CNIO) plays a crucial role in not only helping to lead the charge in applying best-practice nursing techniques but also in leveraging technology to measure the impact efforts are having on outcomes. The pursuit of meaningful metrics to assess technology’s impact on nursing practice and on bending the cost curve is the next frontier for these executive nursing informatics professionals.
The job is not an easy one given the variability in nursing documentation and in terms of efficiency. As leaders who bring together nursing expertise with clinical information technology knowledge, there is an opportunity for CNIOs to assume the role of IT-enabled process engineers within highly complex health systems. This is especially important given the proliferation of non-standardized electronic health records (EHRs), systems and apps. CNIOs understand that systems and process consistency require good governance – in particular clinical governance.
CNIOs also add value by measuring how changes in practices – such as nursing documentation – are being used. By collaborating with the chief nursing officer, the CNIO can uncover where problems are encountered and then work with IT to achieve efficiencies. But where CNIOs really maximize their influence is in understanding the metrics and bringing those insights to the nursing staff so they can derive information from it and take action in targeted areas.
With deep technology knowledge and soft skills around relationship building, CNIOs are poised to act as natural change agents within their organizations. As one CNIO put it during a recent industry roundtable, ‘if you can connect the person’s self to the mission, you will improve morale. That’s an invaluable skill for any health system to leverage.’