1. Schroeder, Patricia MSN, RN

Article Content

Most organizations remain data rich and information poor. While the thought is neither new nor only mine, it is relevant and timely as we seek to improve care in these challenging times. Rapid progress of information technology held the promise of having whatever information we needed for improvement right at our fingertips. "Could the electronic patient record be far off, given the capabilities of technology?" we asked. For many of us, however, access to that level of technology remains a wonderful dream. While the technology with which we live does continue to advance, it can't be fast enough to meet our important needs. And it all too often leaves us wanting and needing more. Current state stacks of data reports often do little more than kill trees, rather than hold the key to answering questions that beg to be resolved. The data often doesn't provide information, and we too often still resort to making decisions without it.


Improving quality and performance requires information, which sets the stage for a critical partnership between clinicians, those improving quality, and those supporting information capture and access. What do we need to know to ensure that care is being delivered safely and effectively? What do we need to know about the outcomes our patients and organizations achieve? How can we most effectively use this information to create improvement? Though some settings demonstrate a positive picture of collaborative partnerships between clinicians, QI staff, and information technology departments, too many others function in silos, or worse, function in adversarial relationships. What can we do to move forward? While there are no simple solutions, a few watchwords may be in order.


* Despite short-lived pleasure of protecting one's own turf, in challenging times like these, we succeed together or we will fail in achieving the improvements necessary to move into the new era of health care. Clinicians, quality improvement staff, and information staff must work together.


* Always begin the discussion with clarifying what we need to know, or what questions must be answered. It's easy to get off track if the discussion starts by identifying elements that are capturable, but may not be critical to understanding and improvement.


* Be clear about what data/information tell you, and what they do not tell you. As we move into this new era, with new challenges, new patients, and new types of care and care delivery, our ability to make accurate assumptions decreases.


* Be patient. While day to day issues seem to take forever to resolve, the world actually is advancing rapidly. Today's information capacities are far beyond what we expected 10 years ago. In the next 10 years, we will again be amazed.


* Be impatient. Unless we have today's leaders driving relentlessly toward better information and better ways to work together to capture and use it, we will not meet the challenge of the day.



Patricia Schroeder, MSN, RN