In the information age, the introduction and use of information processing and communication technology in different professions and trades have been widely embraced. Nursing as one of the most ancient and needed professions has not been left untouched in the search of ways to utilize technology to improve efficiency in service delivery. With the ushering in of the information age, information technology has been seen as the answer to creating efficiency in many professions. Health care has not been left behind in this revolution. Today, nursing has embraced the use of information technology to improve patient care. This has been termed nursing informatics. Nursing informatics, contrary to the widely held belief that it recently started in the 1970s, has been there since the 1950s (Huber, 2006) when computers were first used in health care provision. Nursing informatics has been embraced in different parts of the world as evidenced by the different nursing informatics associations in different countries in the world.
According to Ball, Hannah, Newbold, and Douglas (2000), nursing informatics is the integration of nursing, all of its information and information management, processing, and communication technologies in nursing practice to improve the health of people. This simply means that nursing informatics is the use of computers and information science in nursing practice. Similarly, Graves and Corcoran (1989) in McGonigle and Mastrian (2008) define nursing informatics as a combination of computer science, information science, and nursing science to process nursing data, information, and knowledge to support the practice of nursing.
Information processing systems are used in the nursing practice in different ways for different reasons. In addition to the general functions such as data processing for administrative purposes, information systems play additional roles in improving patient care through providing readings and interpretations for electrocardiograms, reporting results, entering orders, scheduling, and also preventing drug interactions through cross-referencing drug compatibility and providing an appropriate warning to the staff. According to Huber (2006), information systems in nursing informatics are used to collect processes and manage data to improve several aspects of nursing practice.
Given that nurses are always in contact with patients and also are responsible for managing communication with their patients, it can be easily deduced that nursing informatics is a very essential component in health care. Health informatics generally pertains to the understanding of the skills, and equipment that facilitate individuals in health care provision to effectively share information and knowledge to improve patient care.
Having established what nursing informatics is, it is imperative to assess some of the reasons why nursing informatics is very important in health care provision. Nursing informatics is very crucial in providing evidence for making any decision in health care provision. Every individual in nursing practice makes decisions from an informed position with the help of nursing informatics. This translates to efficiency in health care provision. Nursing informatics, therefore, improves understanding knowledge and awareness of nursing and issues in general health care among nursing practitioners.
Nursing informatics is also important as it supports researches that are conducted to find ways of improving health care provision. Evidence-based practice will be facilitated by nursing informatics as information systems in clinics can ease the access to references and guidelines to the best care methods in nursing in all areas. With the rich data of clinical nursing data, nursing informatics eases evaluation of different care methods that can lead to the generation of new knowledge which will further improve nursing practice.
Ball, M. J., Hannah, K. J., Newbold, S. K., & Douglas, J. V. (Eds.). (2000). Nursing informatics: where caring and technology meet. New York: Springer
Huber, D. (Ed.). (2006). Leadership and nursing care management. New York: Elsevier Health Sciences
McGonigle, D., & Mastrian, K. (2008). Nursing Informatics and the Foundation of Knowledge. New York: Jones & Bartlett Publishers