Thursday, September 17, 2009

Medical vs. Nursing Informatics - Part 2

Here is the second part of the comparison between medical and nursing informatics that highlights the similarities and differences between their information needs. First part can be found here.

Physician vs. Nursing Information needs:

It is important to compare and contrast physicians’ and nurses’ information needs to appreciate why we need to two separate informatics disciplines.

There is significant overlap between nurses’ and physicians’ needs for information – drug-drug interaction, pill identification, etc. However, there are certain information needs that are very specific to nurses’ needs – nursing procedures, nursing care plans, etc. Arguably, a nurse may need access to both information sources created for physicians (such as MD Consult, UpToDate, VisualDx, MediSpan, Micromedex, EMBASE, etc.) as well as those created specifically for nurses (CINAHL, NursingConsult, etc.) in order to do his/her job. For instance, a nurse administrator creating or updating a training program for practicing nurses may need current educational materials. Or, when a patient is being discharged and nurse wants to provide educational or instructional material for patient’s care at home.

Similary, there is an overlap on evidence-based information needs but some of the needs for evidence are unique to nursing. For instance, each Evidence-Based Nursing monograph available on Mosby’s Nursing Consult ( contains a concise review of the current evidence available on a clinical problem and presents specific recommendations for nursing care. Another such example is Nursing Reference Center by EBSCO. See the related press release

In clinical settings, physician and nursing workflows are quite different, so their information needs at the point-of-care differ. For instance, a nurse may enter patient symptoms and signs in a nursing information product that returns what other observations should be made, not for diagnosis, but to know what to report to physician. In research settings, information needs of nurses and physicians may differ as well. These differences impact the human-computer interaction (HCI) concepts that are used to design and implement systems built for physicians and nurses within these settings.

From administrative perspective, information needs of CNIO and CMIO would be different. For instance, in a hospital different policies may be created by CNIO and CMIO for nurses and physicians respectively to impact their productivity.

Lastly, education needs of a nurse and a physician would differ based on certifications they would like to pursue, specialty-specific training required for a floor nurse, etc. For instance, a nurse administrator creating or updating training program for practicing nurses may retrieve information related to procedures, processes, general discussion information that is usable for nurse education.

In the third and final part, I will discuss medical and nursing vocabularies as well as growth opportunities.

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