By Christina Orlovsky Page, contributor
September 13, 2012 - Americans are constantly looking for tools to help simplify our lives, as are the organizations and industries in which we work. But our country’s health care system has become increasingly complex despite the abundant tools availed to it, according to a new report released by the Institute of Medicine (IOM). The report, Best Care at a Lower Cost: The Path to Continuously Learning Health Care in America, details barriers to making progress in improving the health of the nation, and highlights inherent challenges that increase costs and decrease efficiency.
One of the fundamental messages to come out of the report revolves around the need for “continuously learning” from every care experience--improving care through the use of new technologies to collect data at the point of service; involving patients and family members as partners in their care; and establishing greater teamwork and transparency in health care organizations. The report lists 10 recommendations around these key points.
Placing an emphasis on technology, the IOM report makes several recommendations for improved collection of data through mobile technologies and electronic health records, calls upon clinicians to fully adopt these tools, and encourages patients and families to further engage in their care through use of patient health information portals and data sharing. An online infographic pointedly demonstrates the need to use information technology more efficiently by allowing clinicians and patients to have real-time access to medical records, calling out mobile banking as an example to follow. Technology is also recommended for use in clinical decision support.
Perhaps the area that most affects nurses is the establishment of a continuously learning multidisciplinary care team that engages patients and their families in an enhanced model of patient care.
Mary D. Naylor, Ph.D., RN, FAAN, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing and member of the IOM study committee, blogged about the critical role of nurses in this transformation.
“The report couldn’t be more timely or relevant, particularly for nurses and the patients they serve, given the complexity of the current health care system,” she said, underscoring the teamwork and various touch points required for nurses to manage their role. “To successfully coordinate a patient’s care, nurses need to communicate and collaborate with patients, family caregivers, physicians, pharmacists, social workers and many other team members.”
Based on this description, Naylor points out the importance of nurses in moving toward a continuously learning health care system.
“Nurses are the common thread linking all components of a patient’s care, and are therefore also the key to advancing a less complex, less costly health care system,” she said.
In response to Naylor’s blog, American Nurses Association President Karen Daley, PhD, RN, FAAN, shared her thoughts on the importance of nurses in the future of health care.
“Nurses have an opportunity to play a dominant role in the development of this learning health care system,” she said.
“A concerted system-wide investment in closing current gaps in our health IT infrastructure has the potential to promote more timely knowledge sharing and provide nurses better access to clinical decision support systems that directly benefit patients and families,” she continued.
“Placing higher priority on patient and family engagement around care quality and cost--including the need for clinicians to utilize new knowledge and provide timely information--are imperative if we are to succeed. Nurses’ partnerships with patients in roles as health coaches and care coordinators will contribute greatly to making this broad vision a reality,” she concluded. “Nurses’ education, knowledge and skills position us as necessary and integral contributors to this culture shift toward a learning health care system--one that recognizes and demonstrates the intrinsic value and need for nurse-patient partnerships that will improve the quality and accountability of care.”
For more information or to read the full IOM report, visit www.iom.edu.
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