Nursing Informatics & 'Open' Health IT Solutions


The time has come for nurses to get even more actively involved in the design, development, and implementation of future health IT systems. In an interview published by eHealth Insider earlier this year, Dr. Susan Hamer, the Director of Nursing, Midwifery & Allied Health professionals at NHS, said implementing new health information technology (IT) systems has a huge impact on clinical practices and managers have often underestimated the effort and expense needed to support nursing.

"While there is a small group of nurses that is taking on the informatics challenge, there are too few of them at the moment," she said. "Nurses need to take a better grip of the health informatics agenda, both to secure the technologies that the profession needs to improve operations  while also enhancing quality of care."  See

Over the past few decades, there has been a tremendous investment made in the development and implementation of patient registration, practice management, order entry, clinic scheduling, electronic health records (EHR), and other health IT systems. While they have been involved to some degree in defining functional requirements for these health IT systems, the role of nurses in the software development process has been fairly limited. Further, there have been relatively few efforts at designing and developing systems specifically aimed at meeting the needs of nurses and hospital nursing departments.

Expect nurses to play a much bigger role in defining requirements for health IT systems of the future, especially given the growth of  more inclusive 'Open Communities' that are playing a bigger role in the defining 'Open Health IT' systems for tomorrow.

Nursing Software

Nurses working in hospitals and large clinics have grown accustomed to using the many administrative and clinical functions of Practice Management and Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems installed in the facilities where they work.

VistA Nursing - The Nursing application is just one of the many modules of the widely deployed 'open source' VistA health information system originally developed by the VA. The Nursing module is comprised of multiple components - i.e., Nursing Administration, Education & Training, Nursing Schedules, Clinical Care, and Quality Assurance. In addition, nurses use many of the other administrative and clinical functions of the system, e.g. Electronic Health Record (EHR), Clinic Scheduling, Patient Admissions/Discharge/Transfer (ADT), etc.

If you search diligently for them, there are a growing range of 'open source' and commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) software products designed to specifically meet the needs of nurses and the nursing community on the market, e.g. nursing education & training modules, nurse scheduling software, mobile nursing apps, etc.

Nursing Mobile Apps

Nurses and students can access drug guides, disease references, lab resources, and perform many other clinical functions using the growing number of free 'open source' or low cost mobile health apps that work on almost any brand device, e.g. iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, Windows Mobile, etc.  Check out the following links:

RNAO Nursing Best Practices Guidelines
Unbound Medicine: Nursing Mobile Apps
Mobile Apps for Student Nurses

* Check out other free mobile health apps and info at COSI Open Health.

Open Access Nursing Journals

In addition to the more traditional Nursing Informatics journals that charge a subscription fee, there are a growing number of free, 'open access' journals now available on the Internet.  See the following list of Nursing Informatics journals:

BMC Nursing is an open access journal publishing original peer-reviewed research articles in all aspects of nursing research, training, education, and practice.
Online Journal of Nursing Informatics (OJNI) is a free, international, professional, refereed publication that focuses on nursing informatics in all practice settings. OJNI is committed to addressing the theoretical and practical aspects of nursing informatics as it relates to the art of nursing.

* Also check out these lists - Free Online Nursing Journals and  Open Access Nursing Journals.

Nursing Organizations

Nurses interested in learning more about Nursing Informatics (e.g. news, careers, degrees, etc.) should look at the following organizations:

Alliance for Nursing Informatics (ANI) - Their mission is to advance Nursing Informatics leadership, practice, education, policy and research through a unified voice of nursing informatics organizations.
American Nursing Informatics Association (ANIA) - The mission of the American Nursing Informatics Association (ANIA) is to advance the field of nursing informatics through communication, education, research and other professional activities.
Canadian Nursing Informatics Association (CNIA) – The association exists to help nurses across Canada to learn, share, research, and create informatics-related projects and experiences that can help to boost the competencies, theory, and practice of informatics on a national level. The mission of the CNIA is to be the primary Voice for Health Informatics in Canada.
HIMSS Nursing Informatics Community - They provide a wide range of information and services to the nursing informatics professional community. Their web site includes links to educational and training materials, nursing informatics projects and initiatives, an online forum or wiki, videos, news, interactive tools, and more.
International Medical Informatics Association (IMIA) Nursing Informatics SIG – Their goal is to foster collaboration among nurses and others who are interested in Nursing Informatics to facilitate further development in the field. They aim to share knowledge, experience and ideas with nurses and healthcare providers worldwide about the practice of Nursing Informatics and the benefits of enhanced information management.

Conclusion & Next Steps

Expect growing numbers of Nursing Informaticists to become more actively involved in the development and implementation of next generation health IT systems. Over the coming decade, nurses will find themselves using or interacting with many new technologies like wearable, implantable, or embedded computer systems They will need to work with patients who will be using Personal Health Record (PHR), Home Telehealth systems, and many other self service eCare solutions. Nursing Informaticists will play a key role in the major changes the practice of health care is about to undergo.  For more information on some of these emerging health IT solutions, go to COSI Open Health.