Informatics nurse professionals regularly use their expertise to promote the adoption of more effective, higher quality clinical applications in their healthcare organizations. In addition, they contribute significantly to patient safety, change management and usability of systems.

These findings are just a few of the results from the 2009 HIMSS Nursing Informatics Impact Survey, conducted by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS; Chicago) and sponsored by McKesson (Alpharetta, Georgia).

The number of informatics nurses in the U.S. is estimated to be about 8,000, according to the Health Resources & Services Administration in the Department of Health and Human Services.

Designed to evaluate the impact that informatics nurses have on the healthcare environment, survey respondents reported an average score of 6.29 on a 7-point scale regarding the value informatics nurses bring to the IT systems implementation process. The research also looked at the impact of informatics nurses on workflow, user/clinician acceptance and screen flow, areas that each received an average score of 6.0 or higher.

"Informatics nurses have always been critical to increasing the adoption of healthcare information technology," said Merrie Wallace, RN, vice president, solution line manager, nursing and clinical marketing at McKesson. "Their input and support is particularly vital as healthcare organizations look for ways to achieve meaningful use of IT in light of the economic stimulus package."

The survey also found that most hospitals, care delivery, healthcare IT vendor and consulting organizations represented in the research employ informatics nurses. These healthcare professionals hold a variety of roles in their organizations that include user education, system implementation, user support, workflow analysis and gaining buy-in from end-users.

Other key survey results include.

Involvement of informatics professionals: 85% of respondents noted that individuals with a clinical background are employed in the information services department at their organization. The vast majority of these organizations employ individuals with a nursing background.

Role of informatics nurses: Informatics nurses are involved in a wide variety of job responsibilities relating to IT. Nearly all respondents noted that informatics nurses play a significant role in user education, and user support was identified by 86% of respondents, emphasizing the importance of this role to successful change management and process improvement.

Value and impact of informatics nurses: Respondents believe that informatics nurses involved in system analysis, design, selection, implementation and optimization of IT have the greatest impact on patient safety (6.21%), workflow (6.17%) and user/clinician acceptance (6.15%). The area with the least impact was integration with other systems (6.03%).

Success of informatics nurses: Making sure that IT does no harm (5.83%) was the concept with the highest average rating relative to the area of impact in which informatics nurses have the most success.

Involvement of informatics nurses with emerging technologies: Some 81% of respondents whose organization was pursuing medical device integration indicated that informatics nurses were involved with this initiative. Informatics nurses are also highly involved with smart devices and remote monitoring.

HIMSS received 432 useable responses for this web-based survey, with data collected between. Respondents also provided demographic data that includes the following information.

Almost 75% of the respondents work for either a hospital or healthcare systems,NULL, with another 11% employed with a vendor organization or consulting firm.

The majority of respondents have nursing-related titles, with 18% of the representing a nurse executive, such as chief nursing informatics officer, director of nursing/director of nursing informatics or chief nursing officer.

Another 10% of the respondents are comprised of non-nursing executives, such as chief information officers, chief operating officers and presidents/chief executive officers.

HIMSS founded the Nursing Informatics Community in 2003 response to the increased recognition of the role of the informatics nurse in healthcare information and management systems. Since its formation, this community of nursing informatics professionals has increased to just over 2,000 nurses, representing more than 10% of HIMSS members.

"With the economic stimulus incentives now confirmed, nurses in clinical informatics become even more vital to technology management as healthcare organizations implement the electronic medical record," said Joyce Sensmeier, RN, vice president, informatics, for HIMSS. "As clinicians who touch almost all points of care, nurse informaticists provide their expertise to ensure the highest quality care."