Support for nurses in making clinical decisions

Clinical decision support tools provide nurses with pertinent knowledge and patient information

Clinical decision support tools provide nurses with pertinent knowledge and patient information

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Today’s nurses and other healthcare professionals must constantly keep pace with an ever-expanding body of clinical knowledge so as to be able to deliver evidence-based, cost-effective and high-quality care to patients.

Infusing healthcare practice with evidence from research has long been important, yet it now seems ubiquitous, spanning nursing practice, academia and scientific research communities alike.

Demand for more nurses and healthcare professionals familiar with and well-trained in evidence-based practice has never been greater, with populations all over the world getting older and sicker. Evidence needs to inform practice at the point of care in support of nurses’ clinical decision making.

Pertinent, organised knowledge

Clinical decision support is a way to enhance health-related decisions and actions with pertinent, organised clinical knowledge and patient information so as to improve health and healthcare delivery.

It can come from patient information in an electronic record or from clinical decision support solutions that are interoperable with the electronic healthcare record.

Nurses need to be involved in the development of clinical decision support tools, which directly affect their professional practice and patient care. Even in countries where electronic healthcare records have not yet been widely adopted, nurses still need access to relevant clinical decision support tools and resources to improve patient outcomes.

Walked through the process

Some of the most common tools are procedural guides that walk nurses through the process of a procedure on or with a patient, such as a 12-lead electrocardiogram, urinary catheter insertion, or wound care management.

Another type of clinical decision support tool instructs nurses specifically on caring for a patient with a particular medical diagnosis or condition. This type of resource provides nurses with critical information on pathophysiology, signs and symptoms, nursing interventions and implications, and care plans.

At the point of care – where time is the enemy and answers are required in minutes or sometimes seconds – nurses need reliable, concise information for quick reference to support clinical decisions.

Research shows that providing nurses with the proper clinical decision support tools can improve practice as well as patient outcomes, bringing standardisation and consistency across the continuum of care and ensuring the right level of care in every situation.

Why such support is needed

Adopting a proactive rather than a reactive approach – with evidence-based practice at the fingertips of all clinicians, when and where it is needed most – improves outcomes.

Nursing practice is a unique discipline, and there is a need for clinical decision support tools that have been developed by nurses for nurses.

While physicians’ clinical decision support tools are related to diagnosis and treatment, those for nurses relate to patient care and management, such as bathing, feeding and ambulating patients, along with wound assessment and management, equipment placement and insertion, and meeting psychosocial needs.

Easier to meet goals

Hospitals that employ clinical decision support tools, especially for nursing, have higher patient outcome scores, research shows. In countries where reimbursement is based on outcomes, using point of care nursing tools to support clinical decisions is directly related to higher reimbursements.

In countries where funding is not based on outcomes, the use of clinical decision support tools for nursing can still improve patient outcomes through high-quality, cost-effective standardisation of care.

Nurses are vital members of the interdisciplinary healthcare team. With the proper evidence-based clinical decision support tools and resources available, the goal of providing better patient care and outcomes can be met more easily.

Anne Dabrow Woods is chief nurse, health learning, research and practice, Wolters Kluwer Health






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