News Feature | September 30, 2016

Report Highlights The Future Of Nursing IT Leaders

Christine Kern

By Christine Kern, contributing writer

Evidence-Based Nursing Informatics

CNIOs help bridge the gap between nursing and technology.

The chief nursing informatics officer (CNIO) is taking a significant role in improving patient outcomes, combining traditional frontline care duties with innovative evidence-based data and practices applicable to all caregivers. Serving as the primary liaison between IT and nursing, the CNIO plays a strategic role in identifying, applying, and managing financial, human, and time resources to help guarantee the success of today’s healthcare organizations.

Executive search firm Witt/Kieffer recently published CNIO 2.0: What’s Next For Nursing IT Leaders?, a survey report highlighting the expanding requirements and experiences healthcare organizations should consider when recruiting nursing IT leaders. The report identifies ways organizations with a strong CNIO can prepare for the healthcare challenges of tomorrow.

The survey found a 250 percent increase in the number of respondents holding the title of CNIO between 2011 and 2016, indicating a growing presence. There is also a growing perception the role extends beyond informatics and into the broader corporate realm, according to the study findings. Approximately half of the respondents reported having a CNIO in place, up from just 28 percent in 2011, or an 82 percent increase. One of the biggest obstacles to adopting a CNIO was the lack of local resources, followed by a lack of a commitment to innovation.

The role of the CNIO involves:

  • EMR and clinical IT implementation and optimization (78 percent)
  • nursing strategy as it relates to ITVP of Nursing (78 percent)
  • IT strategy as it relates to nursing (76 percent)
  • direct day-to-day collaboration with CMIO on clinical IT matters (69 percent)
  • education of organization regarding technology-related nursing (68 percent)
  • oversight and training of nurses and nursing informatics team (59 percent)
  • day-to-day project management (37 percent)
  • budgeting and resource allocation for clinical IT systems (36 percent)

Essentially, the CNIO “bridges the organizational interests of nursing and technology,” according to the report. However, as one participant stated, “Technology is not the solution, it is a tool. If you don’t have a good workflow and do have compliance challenges, they will still be there post-implementation [of EHRs]. CNIOs can make it easier to do the right thing, but they cannot force anyone to do it.”

Another respondent said, “This emerging role, if managed correctly, can go a long way to providing tools and processes that would enhance patient safety; boost nursing, patient, and physician satisfaction; and improve nursing retention.”

The survey also highlighted challenges for CNIOs. One respondent stated, “There’s a lack of understanding about the role informatics plays with point of care planning and technology adoption. We recently formed a clinical informatics department and now have a manager role that is slowly growing into scope.” As healthcare organizations realize the potential and critical role of informatics, they are adopting key roles to leverage it appropriately.

“Hospitals or health systems that may have previously been resistant to the role are now starting to embrace the fact that CNIOs are central to the success of today's healthcare organizations,” Chris Wierz, principal in the Information Technology Practice at Witt/Kieffer, told Health IT Outcomes in an email. “As the primary liaison between IT and nursing, the CNIO can help identify and oversee all necessary resources to maximize nursing productivity.”