Once upon a time, quality patient care was a matter largely between providers and patients. But in today’s fast-paced, evidence-based modern healthcare environment, another player has rapidly become key: technology.
“Going forward, you’re not going to be able to provide the kind of care that will bring about the outcomes we all want without having technology, such as alerts, reminders, and all of those things that are so important,” said Linda Reed, MBA, RN, FCHIME, vice president and CIO at Atlantic Health System, Morristown, NJ.
Referring to nursing and information technology (IT) leaders, she added, “Our ability to be successful is going to hinge on our ability to collaborate.”
How’s your relationship with your IT department? Like all important ties in our lives, you can’t let it slide and assume everything will be just fine. Strong alliances require attention to keep misunderstandings and distrust from threatening their workings. With patients hanging in the balance, the bond between nursing and IT is an especially important one that deserves intentional effort.
The American Organization of Nurse Executives lays out what nurse leaders need to know to build a successful nursing-IT relationship in its Guiding Principles for the Chief Nurse Executive, Chief Information Officer and Industry Partners to Work Together to Leverage Technology to Enhance Clinical Outcomes. Here are a few takeaways from the 6-page report and a webinar held shortly after its release.
There’s no use pretending otherwise. Nursing and IT need each other.
“As I travel around the country, I hear from our CIOs and our senior healthcare IT executives just how difficult it is today to get all the requirements done and get ready for this next wave of healthcare transformation that’s occurring,” said Russ Branzell, FCHIME, CHCIO, president and CEO of the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives. “There is one common theme as I see the CIOs that are not only just surviving but really thriving is their ability to collaborate with clinical leaders.”
The guiding principles recommend chief nurse executives take the time to sit down with their CIO and make a mutual pact to work together to achieve organizational goals. Once that’s agreed on, hammer out specifics of how that partnership will look. Nail down models and processes for communication, clarify roles and establish a common vision, for starters.
“These are all important to build a relationship and a bridge between the CNO and the CIO,” Reed said. “I particularly find that golf really works also. I have a really good time with our CNO when we go out on the golf course.”
The presence (or absence) of understanding and trust can make (or break) a nursing-IT collaboration. The guiding principles emphasize opportunities to walk in one another’s shoes through, for example, the development of templates or tools to allow for a better understanding of each other’s role and the priorities that drive the workday. A commitment to truthful communication is vital as well.
“At Atlantic, we had so many initiatives in place, we had to sit down and talk about what’s important to us in IT and nursing,” Reed recalled. “We also had to sit down and talk about scheduling. The IT department just couldn’t schedule upgrades, updates and new system implementations without asking nursing what was important. Did they have anything they were doing? We’re a Magnet hospital and we have Joint Commission surveys, so we have to plan together.”
The principles also propose establishing rituals and camaraderie, such as attending outside meets as a CNE-CIO partners. (Golf, anyone?) Scheduling time specifically for the building up of CNE-CIO relationship should be a priority.
“Don’t assume it will happen without focused attention,” the guiding principles advise.
Making technology plans should be a team effort and involve the CNE, CIO and others with potentially valuable input.
“This includes staff at all user points—especially staff who are the end users of solutions,” the guiding principles coach. “Start at the beginning of IT planning so the solutions are validated by end users up front and not at the end of planning.”
IT suppliers and industry partners are also essential allies in an organization’s technology strategy. Not only can such partners help organizations implement the technology they choose, but they also can keep hospitals abreast of what’s new and most likely to benefit their caregiving team in the future.
“It was important to include our industry partners so they can bring innovative ideas and help us move some of those products forward,” said Reed.
“I think we all need to remember on a daily basis that we all have the same goal. We want to provide great care to all of our patients,” she added. “If we remember that clinical practice and information technology—together—are the enablers of clinical transformation, we’ll be all set for success in the future.”
Are you seeing a harmonious relationship between nursing leadership and IT at your facility? Why or why not? Leave us a comment, we'd love to hear your thoughts!