Advancing informatics: Experiencing AMIA for the first time

Nov. 27, 2017 / By Jacee Robison, RN, MS

This November I attended the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) Conference for the first time. After graduating this past May with a Masters in Nursing Informatics from the University of Utah (see my previous blog on this topic), the meeting was especially timely for me, plus AMIA is the biggest Informatics conference in the U.S., drawing professionals from all over the world. AMIA’s aim is to advance both the science – to ensure that informatics is used effectively to promote health and health care – and the profession of informatics, by providing networking and professional development opportunities to members. The best part of the AMIA conference for me was learning about all the new research in the scientific sessions, hearing from so many inspiring and accomplished individuals and not only learning from them, but having the opportunity to connect on a personal level.

A session that was of great interest to me was “A Structured Approach to Measuring Individual Nurse’s Contribution in Patient Outcomes.” One of the presenters stated, “Nurses are complex knowledge workers, but their contribution to patient outcomes is under-represented in science and measurement.” Being a Registered Nurse myself, I can appreciate that statement, and I agree that there is a need to start working on this issue or nurses will continue to be under-valued. The speakers proposed a new nursing value model that included the patient, nurse/provider, cost and facility/entity, so the data collected could show how valuable a nurse’s contribution is. One roadblock:  There isn’t a process or a standard way of identifying an individual nurse. For example, if you are licensed as a nurse in Utah and in California you are given two separate licenses with different numbers that identify you. Having one single identifier is important to track nurses and their certifications, experience and education level. In addition, for the model to be successful, it needs a data dictionary to standardize the naming conventions for the data elements and terminologies used in nursing, identify redundancies or missing elements, see how the elements might be used, and cross reference to existing definitions in current standards. I was excited to hear about the progress being made and my fingers are crossed that this value model can be put into action.     

Another session that stood out was “Optimizing Patient Care through Clinical Decision Support: Call to Action by the National Academy of Medicine.” This session addressed the need for efficient, standards-based Clinical Decision Support (CDS). Considering the shift in health care towards value-based payment, having CDS tools that are standardized and easily shared would be crucial. It became apparent to me that to achieve this goal, terminologies must be utilized and standardized within the Electronic Health Record (EHR). Another priority is to use established interoperability standards, such as the Health Level 7 Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR), to pass data and context/situational information from the EHR to the CDS and to accept recommendations from the CDS back to the EHR. The session gave me hope that this goal of standardized CDS can be reached in a few years. Now, there are many more issues at hand, the biggest being multiple stakeholder commitments and the creation of CDS technical standards. The idealist in me thinks that stakeholders can see the benefit of standardizing CDS tools for clinicians, but the realistic me knows there must be some sort of financial drive to gain buy-in.

The Nursing Informatics Working Group did not disappoint. Its session focused on the future of Nursing Informatics and how important it is to educate newly Registered Nurses about the field. They are working to standardize a foundational Nursing Informatics course within the nursing curriculum.  As the healthcare industry is changing and moving towards value-based care, I can see how vital it is for new nurses to understand that good documentation matters. We must have good data in order to make the best decisions for our patients.

Last but not least, I presented in a poster session where I was figuratively “put in the hot seat” next to my banner and had to tell others about my work. Now remember that this is my first ever attendance at AMIA coupled with my first ever presentation of a poster. You can imagine how excited/nervous I was, but it was a great setting for interacting with the other attendees and sharing my research. My poster was well received and it was encouraging to see the interest. I was also surprised at the breadth of topics – there were two sessions with approximately 100 posters in each. Overall, AMIA was an inspiring experience and I am so glad I had the opportunity to learn from the sessions, present my poster, and interact with colleagues in this exciting field of informatics.

Jacee Robison, MS, RN, is a nurse informaticist with the Clinical Terminology group at 3M Health Information Systems.

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