1. Carlson, Elizabeth A.

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For many years, there was a paucity of textbooks on informatics that were readable and useable by nurses and other healthcare providers. The focus of the majority of informatics textbooks during this period was the person who would be designing or overseeing such a system. This resulted in narrowly focused and highly technical books that were of limited, or no, use to the clinician. Fortunately, there have been several books recently published that do focus upon the nurse and the knowledge the clinician needs to understand and use informatics.


Health Care Informatics: An Interdisciplinary Approach by Sheila Englebardt and Ramona Nelson. St. Louis, MO: Mosby, 576 pages; 2002.


That being said, the first book discussed is one of the "older" informatics textbooks currently in use. As you can see from the publication date (2002), it is only 7 years "old" but many changes and advancements have occurred over the intervening years. It is widely used by colleges and universities and contains good foundational information. Naturally, any advances in the field since 2002 are not addressed, nor are current trends and technologies. Although dated examples are used throughout the book (storage devices discussed are floppy disk drives and 31/2-in diskettes), clear explanations are given for subjects that, in some instances today, are considered such basic information that it is not discussed. One example is a very clear explanation of what parts are in a database (Chapter 3). One of the books' strengths is the multidisciplinary group of authors who contributed to the book.


I suggest that if you come across this book, it is worth your perusal and you should not be put off by the 2002 publication date. If you seek a solid understanding of informatics, this is a good book to read. If you seek detailed and up-to-date informatics or computer technology information, I suggest some of the books that are discussed next.


Nursing Informatics and the Foundation of Knowledge by Dee McGonigle and Kathleen Mastrian. Sudbury, MA: Jones & Bartlett, 499 pages; 2009.


This book is an extremely comprehensive presentation of nursing informatics within the context of "knowledge acquisition, processing, generation, and dissemination" (p. xi). The authors indicate that their "primary objective was to develop the most comprehensive and user-friendly NI (nursing informatics) text on the market to prepare nurses for current and future practice challenges" (p. xi). This book is for both nursing students and professionals. The scope includes practice, education, administration, and research. This book looks at the knowledge needed to be acquired, processed, generated, and disseminated, and wraps this framework around informatics. Although this book offers specific and detailed information, the overarching approach is theoretical and conceptual in nature. It does not assume any knowledge on the part of the reader, which results in Section 1 (five chapters) as an overview of the building blocks of nursing informatics: nursing, information, computer, and cognitive sciences, as well as a discussion of improving the human-technology interface.


This book is a good basic textbook and useful for individuals who are not familiar with the wide range of applications and uses of nursing informatics. In one sense, the book's content is very wide ranging and presents topics beyond informatics such as HIPAA and evidence-based practice. The approach of returning to the Foundation of Knowledge model throughout the book seems to pull the focus from informatics. This books looks at informatics strictly from a nursing perspective.


Informatics and Nursing: Competencies and Applications. (3rd ed.) by Linda Q. Thede and Jeanne P. Sewell. Philadelphia, PA: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 456 pages; 2010.


This book has been written to serve as a textbook for a nursing informatics course or as a resource textbook within a curriculum that has informatics as a continuing thread. The authors see this textbook as spanning the educational process from beginning to the more senior levels. This book would be an excellent book for someone who is unfamiliar with technology in general and somewhat hesitant to plunge into the world of technology and informatics in particular. The writers do not assume any previous knowledge and begin at a very basic level. In fact, the first half of the book walks the reader through basic topics. For example, Chapter 2 is "Meet the Computer" and Chapter 11 is "The Internet: One Road to Health and Evidence-Based Practice Information."


This book has a curious mixture of informatics-related content and other content. For example, Chapter 11 presents how to interpret relationships between information literacy, health literacy, and information technology skills; consumer information literacy and patient education; information about how to determine and establish document readability; essentials of validating nursing knowledge on the Internet; the differences between a scholarly nursing article and the lay literature; and how to identify and evaluate Internet-based resources. Similarly, in Chapter 18, "The Informatics Discipline," five pages are devoted to an explanation of various change theories, general systems theory, and chaos theory. Although these theories are certainly applicable to the introduction of informatics, I wonder about the amount of space they were given in this book.


This book would be appropriate for someone who has no knowledge or experience at all in informatics or the use of computers in general. Anyone who uses a personal digital assistant, has an online banking account, does word processing, accesses the Internet, searches for topics, and/or works in an environment where some degree of computerization has been implemented will find this book too basic for his or her needs.


Introduction to Computers for Healthcare Professionals (5th ed.) by Irene Joos, Ramona Nelson, and Marjorie J. Smith. Sudbury, MA: Jones & Bartlett, 618 pages; 2010.


On the other hand, this book is also an introductory computer literacy textbook for healthcare students, and although it is basic information, the content is very useful. As the authors state in the Preface, "In each chapter the process for using the computer is carefully explained. This information is followed by several examples and assignments where both computer and information skills are mastered" (p. xi). What this textbook teaches is how computers are used. It is predominately a textbook that "features lesson material, exercises, and activities which provide more experience with the Internet, Vista and the latest of Microsoft Office, 2007" (p. xiii). The content presented is clear and understandable. Once you have read this textbook and practiced the exercises and activities, you will have a very solid and clear understanding of how to use computers and the Internet. The content is neither too basic nor too complex.


A quick review of the chapter content is useful. After an introductory chapter, Chapter 2 presents basic information needed to understand current and changing technology. Chapter 3 looks at the computer and its operating system technology and how to manage files and folders. Chapters 4-8 teach the use of common software applications in a very clear and useable manner. In some books specifically designed to teach the use of the application, I feel that you need to understand the application to understand the content provided. This textbook is the opposite of that approach, making the content very learnable and useable. The remaining chapters have a variety of topics.


I highlight Chapter 11 because it is about distance learning from a student perspective. You may be aware of the increased use of distance learning, also known as online classes, but are not familiar with the various aspects and approaches used today. This chapter offers good information for interested persons. The textbook also provides a comprehensive glossary.


I highly recommend this textbook to you if you have a limited knowledge of software applications commonly used today or of distance learning. This textbook is very informative and well-written, making it easy to read and understand.


Austin and Boxerman's Information Systems for Healthcare Management (7th ed.) by Gerald L. Glandon, Detlev H. Smaltz, and Donna J. Slovensky. Chicago, IL: Health Administration Press, 288 pages; 2008.


This textbook is directed toward students and healthcare managers as they learn about "the effective application and management of information technology" (p. xi). The authors indicate that this book is "about management and how the management of healthcare organizations can be improved by the intelligent use of information" (p. xiv). Because the manager must ensure this intelligent use of information, the authors advocate for an approach that is systematic, formal, and planned. To reinforce the systems level of focus, the authors use information management/information technology (IM/IT) to refer to "all major components of information systems" (p. xiv). The book deals with both the management of information resources and the use of information for patient care and organizational management. The use of this book is suggested for both practicing healthcare executives and managers, or for students at the advanced undergraduate or first-semester graduate health information systems courses.


There are three parts to this book. Part I, "Aligning IM/IT and Organizational Strategy," addresses the role IM/IT have in supporting and coordinating the business objective, the role of the CIO, why governance is important to IM/IT, and the relationship between IM/IT and the external environment. Part II, "Blocking and Tackling," describes operations of IM/IT, including the infrastructure architecture and service delivery. Part III, "Achieving Strategic Competitive Advantage," looks at IM/IT application evolution, the transformation to a knowledge-enabled organization, determining the value of IM/IT to the organization, and future possibilities.


This book views IM/IT from the administrative perspective, not from a nursing perspective. Clinicians are mentioned as users of the IM/IT system from the perspective of what IM/IT must provide, not as active creators or shapers of the system. Nurses are cited in the list of who to include in various committees of key users when those groups or committees are discussed as an area requiring management. This book is not recommended for clinicians who seek to understand IM/IT, unless the clinician is interested in the managerial or administrative mindset on this area.


In conclusion, the books discussed in this column present a wide range of information about computer technology and informatics and how these innovations impact and are influenced by the clinician. There are books for the beginner as well as for the clinician skilled in informatics. As with any specialty area, informatics as it is used by the clinician is in constant fluctuation and change. Also, as with any specialty area, it is important for the clinician to remain current with the numerous advances because these advances will impact the care given by the clinician.