National Health IT Week is a wonderful opportunity to consider the many ways that technology and data have made an impact on the health and healthcare around the globe. While there is still so much work to do to make technology in healthcare the seamless system we desire, I think we need to reflect on how far we have come. I offer a more personal recollection on the evolution of health informatics.
Transition from Paper to Digital
In the years before 2008, the Emergency Department that I worked in as a Registered Nurse used the same charting system that most of the country did. It was a system of clips-boards, forms, and cubbies. The clipboards were moved from one area of cubbies to the next, from the nurses’ to the medical secretaries’ and then maybe also the physicians’ cubbies.
The daily struggle was to find your patients clipboard, review anything that had been updated, and then wait for more information. Honestly, I found that I spent more time finding the clipboard than I did caring for my patients. If a patient was critically ill, only one person could be reviewing the clinical data at a time.
Real time access to my patients’ critical data was imperative for me as a nurse. So when I was asked to sit on a committee that would help put in a new “computer system” I raised both my hands. Twice.
After a year or so of planning and preparing for our new system, we were ready to start using it. While we had our growing pains and learning curves, we also had instant access to our patients’ current care data at any given time. I could be reviewing the patient data at the same time as the rest of the care team.
Benefits of instant access to care data
The first day we deployed the new system, I was assigned to the care of a gentleman who was unconscious from vomiting blood. His life was ending, in front of my eyes.
Nothing felt better than being able to stay in the room with that patient, with a bedside computer for instant access to current information and for patient care communication. I did not have to leave my patient to find the clipboard.
While at the patient’s bedside, I could also receive an alert through the computer of the physician’s newest orders to care for this critically ill man. When it was time to send this man to the Intensive Care Unit, the nurse who was assuming his care had already reviewed all of his important health data before I even spoke with her.
Improved care experiences
While technology in healthcare is not always perfect, I think we need to remember how far we have come as an industry. We now have the ability to act as a larger care team to provide improved care and care experiences for healthcare consumers.
As I think about the next eight years I hope to see greater technology access to at-risk populations, greater communication between diverse systems, and improved use of quality health data to help target our healthcare spending in the most efficient ways possible.
Megan Landry, B.S.N., M.H.A.- Informatics is the Program Manager for the graduate and undergraduate programs in Health Informatics in the College of Graduate an Professional Studies at the University of New England.
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