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#IHeartHIT: One nurse’s health IT journey a story of passion, commitment

Editor’s note: U.S. National Health IT Week (NHIT Week) focuses on awareness and catalyzing actionable change within healthcare through the application of information and technology. The week-long celebration demonstrates the power of health IT and its capacity for transformation. In celebration, Allscripts User Experience Clinician Carin Mann, RN, shares her HIT journey.

I decided I wanted to be a nurse in the eighth grade. I knew that nurses worked hands-on with patients and helped them get better. That’s what I wanted to do: Make a difference in people’s lives.

This desire continued through high school and led me to Villanova’s outstanding nursing program. I loved what I was learning and after graduation was excited to start working in the hospital on a medical unit with an ICU step-down unit.

While on this unit, I became involved with the Clinical Practice Committee, which focused on how to improve the practice and processes that nurses follow. This allowed me to examine how we can help nurses do their jobs better.

That became my next passion.

I moved into a management role on an ortho/trauma/medicine unit and continued to look for ways to improve the daily lives of nurses, nursing assistants and medical clerks. Eventually, the hospital decided to implement an EHR. I was invited to join the decision-making team for choosing and implementing the new system.

The hospital looked for nurses to be a part of the day-to-day decisions for implementation. This was my introduction to asking physicians and nurses how they wanted to interact with the computer and how it could help them. I served as “translator” to the people configuring the system. We also were a part of the testing process and trained the users, too.

Due to cutbacks, I left the hospital and started looking for other ways to use my passion to improve the workflows of clinicians and to continue to explore the power of EHR systems. I was hired at Allscripts to help test clinical documentation, which included flowsheets and notes used by clinicians.

While working for an EHR vendor was a change for me, having a nurse on the Quality Assurance team was a change for the team. I followed test plans, and I also just used the flowsheets and notes as I would in the hospital.

Along the way, I found bugs and uncovered new questions for my team. I also understood complex concepts such as drip calculations and “fanning out” information between flowsheets in a different way than non-clinicians would. Adding clinicians to the test team further enhanced the product experience. Within my first year, we had multiple clinicians testing on a variety of teams.

Since that first role at Allscripts, I have participated on the development teams in a variety of ways from design to product management. Our goal was always to deliver great features and talk to clients about what they need.

Some features were more successful than others, and I was always looking for a better way to get it right. Then entered the User Experience (UX) team.

I was introduced to the UX team after an Allscripts merger and discovered their User-Centered Design process. The more I learned about the process, the more excited I became. Thankfully, the UX manager recognized the value of having clinicians on the team and offered me a position where I have thrived.

As a part of the UX team, I have the opportunity to improve and rethink the way we work and interact with computer systems. While there are usability issues in the current EHRs today, we have the opportunity to change the paradigm to use the information in these systems to help clinicians care for their patients. Just as your smartphone supports you in your day-to-day activities, your EHR should do the same.

As we celebrate National HIT week, I am reminded of the importance of focusing on what is most important in my job: Representing our users. It is easy to focus on the data we can collect or on incorporating the latest and greatest technology. If our work doesn’t help clinicians do their jobs or help patients get better care, then we are missing a great opportunity.

My eighth-grade self didn’t know about software and User-Centered Design theory. But she did start me on my journey, and that journey has taken me to places that I could not imagine then.

Thanks to Carin for sharing her story, and to all who are celebrating #NHITweek. Find more health IT stories or share yours here.

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