A longitudinal study of 326 hospitals found that those that had implemented more advanced EHR systems over the time period had higher costs and increased nurse staffing levels (Furukawa et al., 2010). Patient complications increased in these hospitals, while mortality for some conditions declined. It should be noted, however, that these results may be difficult to interpret because of the implementation of minimum nurse staffing regulations at the same time that the implementation of EHRs ramped up. During that time, nurse staffing rose, and thus costs per patient rose, and if there is any correlation between implementation of EHRs and increased nurse staffing due to the ratios, the results may confound the two. In addition, the study did not control for hospital ownership (e.g., nonprofit, forprofit) or system affiliation, both of which might be important.

Finally, a systematic review of the literature (fewer than 25 articles) showed that the time spent on documentation of care may increase or decrease with EHRs (Thompson et al., 2009). The increases in time however, may be compensated for by the use of EHRs in other activities, such as giving/receiving reports, reconciling medications, and planning care.

Technology Transforming Roles for Nurses

The new practice milieu—where much of nursing and medical care is mediated and supported within an interoperable “digital commons”—will support and potentially even require much more effective integration of multiple disciplines into a collaborative team focused on the patient’s unique set of needs. Furthermore, interoperable EHRs linked with personal health records and shared support systems will influence how these teams work and share clinical activities. It will increasingly be possible for providers to work on digitally linked teams that will collaborate with patients and their families no longer limited by real-time contact.35

As the knowledge base and decision pathways that previously resided primarily in clinicians’ brains are transferred to clinical decision support and CPOE modules of advanced HIT systems, some types of care most commonly provided by nurses can readily shift to personnel with less training or to patients and their families. Similarly, many types of care previously provided by physicians and other highly trained personnel can be provided effectively by APRNs and other specialty trained RNs. Furthermore, the performance of these fundamentally restructured teams will be monitored through the use of biometric, psychometric, and other types of process and outcome “e-indicators” extracted from the HIT infrastructure.


This and the next paragraph draw on a paper commissioned by the committee on “Health Care System Reform and the Nursing Workforce: Matching Nursing Practice and Skills to Future Needs, Note Past Demands,” prepared by Julie Sochalski, University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, and Jonathan Weiner, Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health (see Appendix F on CD-ROM).

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