History, Just In Time Learning, Genomics, EHR, Future


The history of informatics is documented as far back as the 1800s. The evolution of informatics was driven by the need to communicate, to record and to manage information. Health care informatics is a fairly new field but the changes leading to its development have been global.

Health care informatics education is transforming also. The changes are driven by the technology that supports education, the professions involved, health care therapies, and outcomes-based research. The technology includes computers with very fast processors and the multitude of locations that computers are being placed; such as smart IV pumps and cardiac defibrillators. In addition, high speed network access has opened the door to immediate teaching and learning to take place.

There is a concept known as “just in time” learning. This concept refers to the technical vs. academic education and focuses on small bits of knowledge instead of studying a domain of knowledge. One of the questions is whether an individual can combine all the knowledge bits into a cohesive whole. Patricia Benner’s concept of Novice through Expert defines a novice nurse as one who collects too much information and cannot organize it. It would be curious to determine if traditional education leads to greater ability to process all the information; to critically think.

The majority of my informatics learning over the past 20 years has taken place as “just in time” learning. I always perceived that all the information should connect in some format and have struggled with it for a number of years. Trying to combine nursing concepts with technology was not easy. Returning to school, taking informatics courses and being involved in discussions has brought all the bits of information together. It has helped me connect all the dots.

A large impact on the education process for Informatics nurses has been distance learning. Not all colleges have an Informatics curriculum and not all people are living in areas that have easy access to higher education. Distance learning, computer based training, and discussion boards have all supported the education process for health care informatics.

The science of genomics will change the delivery and ethics of health care therapies. Genomics will allow for pharmaceuticals to be customized to the individual, such as cancer treatments. This technology will have a huge impact on the response and sensitivities to treatments. This technology comes at a cost and how will it be paid for?

In addition, the Electronic Health Record is an example of an information system that will be composed of large amounts of data and will be able to generate data for use by insurers, researchers, health care providers, etc. How the information is collated, stored, retrieved, and used has not been determined.

Englebardt and Nelson state that “Technology will pervade all aspects of health care”, p. 500. Technology already permeates so much of health care. Whether this is a future trend or just the conclusion of a current trend is to be determined. The point being, with all the advances in technology; the impact on concepts, practice, work flow, usability, budgets, etc. it is incredibly important to have health care informaticists educated now and for the future to implement the technologies, define the processes, research the needs, and answer the multitude of questions that technology presents to health care providers.

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