Technology Trends and Patient Care: A Win-Win

By Kathleen Hazlett, RN, Director of Enterprise Applications, Methodist Health System

Information technology (IT) is dramatically changing the face of health care, offering a new set of challenges for nurses and other clinicians. While it may seem like the learning curve is fast and furious right now, in the long run the payoff for patients and clinicians will be significant.

For hospitals, the pressure is mounting to meet demands of new governmental regulations and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act’s meaningful use requirement for electronic health record technology. We must meet certain standards and report specific quality metrics, all of which require total dependence on technology.

That’s where nursing informatics comes in. Even though nursing informatics is in its third decade as a specialty within nursing, the definition has continued to change. Today, nursing informatics refers to a specialty that facilitates the integration of data, information, and knowledge to support patients, nurses, and other providers in their decision-making in all roles and settings. This includes the use of information and technology in delivering direct patient care, establishing administrative systems to support lifelong learning, and supporting nursing research.

As we continue the process of training staff to help them embrace technological changes, it’s also affecting time management. For example, in the early stages of computer integration on patient floors, clinicians complained that they were spending more time on computers than with patients. But today, we want clinicians to take technology to the patient bedsides to scan medications, scan the patient ID, and document at the same time. Nurses have more demands on their time than ever. The good news is, now they can have the best of both worlds – the technological tools to help them document quickly and consistently while spending more time with the patient at the bedside.

In spite of the challenging change process, the benefits of IT in nursing are clear. Legibility is huge. We no longer have to struggle to read someone else’s handwriting. The formats are structured. All information is reportable in data fields, analyzed, and retrievable. And IT reduces potential errors through warnings built into the system to give alerts to staff and physicians.

Since IT is here to stay, what can you do to make it easier on yourself? Here are a few tips to help you become more engaged:

  1. Volunteer to be involved in large IT initiatives. Be on a core team or join a committee. It’s a great way to make recommendations that come directly from a clinical user’s perspective.

  2. Connect with the hospital’s education department to help

    implement a new initiative such as a bedside medication rollout.

  3. Use every resource available. For example, at Methodist Health System we trained extern nurses to navigate with the computers, so even as students they gained valuable experience in both their career and in the IT arena. These nurses were also exposed to many different nursing units so they had a chance to see a variety of medical areas. In addition to enhancing their experience, it was a big win for us to have their help.

My role today is to be a translator between IT and the realities of bedside nursing, so I have a foot in both camps. I never dreamed I’d still be at Methodist 34 years after starting my career as a staff nurse, but I’ve had the opportunity for so much growth. Truly, the key is understanding the patient care side, which, when it’s all said and done, is what this technology era in health care is all about.

Methodist has been setting the bar in IT. CIO Pam McNutt was nationally recognized as one of the top 25 women in health care by Modern Healthcare, and most recently was one of three Methodist leaders recognized as Hospital and Healthcare System Leaders to Know by Becker's Hospital Review magazine. In addition, we were named one of the Most Wired health care systems in 2010 and 2011 by Hospitals & Health Networks magazine. If you’re ready to make a brilliant move, visit


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Posted Clinical Trends