Better Health Information Through Technology

Nurses need access to as much health data they can get about the patient, but that data must also be protected, says Denise Irvine, the nursing profession’s appointment to the newly formed Health Information Governance Expert Advisory Group. (HIGEAG)

HIGEAG was set up in June 2012 as a sub committee of the National Health IT Board (NHITB) advising the Board on the development of a national health information governance framework.

The purpose of the framework is to provide a nationally consistent, efficient and effective way of handling health information. More consistency is vital to allow better integration of health services and to improve consumer safety and confidence.

Irvine, a Hamilton registered nurses and chief executive of e3health ltd, a consultancy company advising on the use of information and communication technology in the health service, was invited to represent the profession on the group by NZNO and College of Nurses Aotearoa. She said it was vital to have nursing leadership on groups such as HIGEAG, which were making decisions about the future of health care, not only because nurses were the largest group of health professionals but also because they were patient advocates and change agents.

She said patient’s health information was vital to nurses so they could develop care plans. Being able to access the patient’s previous history through electronic means, however, could provide further important , and possibly more comprehensive health information, which the patient had omitted to include and which could influence the patient’s care.

“Gathering this data and storing it electronically, however, must be carefully protected to ensure the safety of the patient”. Inappropriate release of this data could result in a patient choosing not to work in partnership with a nurse or to avoid seeking nursing support and advice she said.

Providing a nursing voice.

Irvine saw her role on HIGEAG as providing a nursing voice at meetings and as bringing the health information issues relevant to nursing back to the profession for discussion, then returning to the group with a united nursing view on those issues. She would also be a strong advocate within the group, for inclusion of more nurses in national interdisciplinary health groups – “their knowledge, experience and wisdom must be used to influence both health policy development and practice from a nursing perspective”.

Irvine is also a member of the executive committee of Health Informatics New Zealand (HINZ) the New Zealand Telehealth Leadership Forum executive, is the HINZ representative on Health Information Standards Organization (HISO) and represents NZNO on the International Council of Nurses Telehealth Network. 

Prepared for Kai Tiaki November 2012

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