Inside USD

Nursing Informatics: Leading a Revolution in Healthcare

Monday, November 12, 2012

Jonathan Mack is revolutionizing healthcare. Mack, an APRN who earned his PhD from USD Nursing in 2010, creates and tests technology to transform clinical practice. Mack started with an iPhone app for data entry and information display for a wireless fetal monitoring device that was part of his postdoctoral fellowship at West Health Institute, a San Diego research institute committed to lowering healthcare costs through innovative technology.

Mack, who coordinates USD Nursing’s Health Care Informatics program, demonstrates the handsome, easy-to-use display, with a running commentary on health care informatics, the rising demand for nurse informaticists, and the global reach of USD Nursing research.

The Informatics Master’s program, whose first student graduated this year, teaches the application of computer science and knowledge management. Open both to nurses and non-nurses, it is the only program in California that allows nurses to sit for Nursing Informatics Certification, and one of a very few in the country to include a residency and capstone project. “The informatics program is another example of the school’s providing leadership,” Mack says. “We’re really ahead of the curve, and we owe a lot to Dean Hardin’s vision and her support.”

The program aims to ground students in basic concepts of informatics, so that they can move into a variety of areas, including medical device development, application of informatics to pharmacological research, public health initiatives, and electronic medical records systems. Large electronic medical records systems need clinical input because the medical record’s structure and data shape health care procedures and workflow. Nurse informaticists can help engineers build systems that support best practices and reduce opportunities for medical errors. Mack is already fielding calls from companies who are looking for clinical informaticists, and he expects demand will increase.

“When you have nurse informaticists on the design team, it accelerates the design process and you get a better product.”

Mack’s postdoctoral research was part of a partnership with Mexico’s Carlos Slim Institute to design a portable fetal monitoring kit for use in the Yucatan where Mayan women with high-risk pregnancies cannot travel to a hospital for twice weekly monitoring. Mack worked with software and electrical engineers to design a portable device and a tablet display that packs into an easily carried attaché case. Local clinic workers can monitor a woman, enter data, and transmit it wirelessly to a hospital-based obstetrician.

Mack’s nursing perspective guided the engineers’ work, assuring that the device design, its workflow supported the clinical process. Nurse informaticists possess both clinical and health care informatics experience that allows them to translate the realities of clinical work to device engineers, medical database designers, and researchers. The portable monitor with Mack’s tablet app will be deployed in the Yucatan, and other remote areas of Mexico. Mack and West Health are currently in talks with other research partners about using it in Africa. Innovative technology holds the promise of greatly increasing access to care while lowering the cost, and USD Nursing’s clinical informaticists are preparing to join the next revolution in care.

– Barbara Davenport

This story first ran in USD Nursing Times 2012 issue.

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