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Patient data go electronic: making IT work for you!

I was delighted to chair the recent NiP Event in Manchester on 20 May 2008. As well as meeting colleagues from all over the country the speakers were as usual outstanding. The buzz around the event throughout the day was inspiring and I am sure many of you took back a wealth of information and resources to support your clinical practice and enhance your continuing professional development.

One session in particular, Making IT work for you, was not so well attended and I wondered why. Was it that IT is "scary" and many of you will still feel a "novice" in this area? Was it because many of you are experiencing delays in implementation of IT whether that be due to lack of training or resources or just plain time to be able to engage effectively in this development without compromising patient care?

Di Millen, head of Informatics Development, NHS Connecting for Health, provided an excellent session and demonstrated numerous ways in which informatics can support clinicians. With the rapid changes in healthcare we need IT to support us and to enable that change to take place effectively. We all need to be involved and embrace IT positively if it is going to work and there are many examples of how this has been achieved successfully. Di quoted Florence Nightingale who said: "In hardly any instance have I been able to obtain hospital records fit for any purpose of comparison. If they could be obtained, they would show subscribers how their money was being spent, what amount of good was really being done with it, or whether the money was doing mischief rather than good." How pertinent is this today?

According to a recent National Audit Office (NAO) report regarding electronic care record delays it may not be fully operational until 2014-15. Software packages such as Lorenzo have taken much longer to implement and training and resources have been hugely underestimated. The report concludes that it is essential for NHS staff to be convinced of the value of the programme for it to succeed. I wonder how many frontline staff are convinced?

While some people might argue that we have managed perfectly well with paper records or can give examples of where IT has let them down, the reality is that things go wrong with paper records too! How many times have you not been able to decipher someone else's script or records been lost, mislaid or incomplete? IT brings a wealth of benefits and many of my practice nurse colleagues who have worked with electronic records for many years will support this. But we also work with colleagues who are relatively new to IT and haven't yet seen the benefits.

As nurses we need to be more involved in the development of informatics, which provide immense opportunities to benefit both patients and professionals to deliver high-quality and safe care.

Click here to download Di Millen's presentation.

Department of Health
Connecting for Health
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