Nature of Health Information

The information needs of both physicians and nurses compare as well as contrast each other in a number of ways. Information access may take many forms ranging from looking up information on a computer or in a textbook, to formal subspecialty consults, to informal dialogues between healthcare professionals (McKnight, Stetson, Bakken, Curran, & Cimino, 2002, p.64).

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The main question that the research set out to determine is the best way to deliver and retrieve data, that would be effective, contain less errors, and timely in nature (how long it takes to retrieve information and input information).Analysis has been done on several areas dealing within information. These areas of analysis include information need: satisfaction, communication, collaboration, and selected quality indicators. Physicians as well as nurses both reported relatively high satisfaction with Internet access and retrieval, as well as comfort of accessing Online resources in general. (McKnight et al., p. 64).

McKnight et al. also recorded information that revealed that most of the other online sources used were not comparable when considering percentages of usage between physicians and nurses. Ninety-two percent of physicians reported looking up information concerning Endoscopy and Cardiac imaging, while only 35% of nurses reported retrieving the same information. On the other hand, fewer physicians reported needing the following information: diagnoses systems (42%), alert systems (23%), or info buttons (15%) (McKnight et al., p.65). Both groups reported having similar difficulties with information retrieval including but not limited to: difficulty in locating necessary information, finding inaccurate or outdated information, and limited time to access needed information or use data retrieval equipment (McKnight et al., p.64). Both physicians and nurses also agreed on the difficulty of contacting other healthcare providers. Nursing staff did not yield a high percentage rate on the effectiveness of using a paging system (50%), where physicians stated this was their most favored paging source (93%) (McKnight et al., p.66). Regarding information needs, both nurses and physicians emphasize that the time to look up information was limited, and that quick, relevant information sources were most useful (McKnight et al., p. 67).

Most of the specific information needs on the part of physicians as well as nurses includes mostly Web based applications. The programs mentioned in the study included WebCIS and MD Consult. MD Consult was actually highly favored for the ability of physicians to access everything in one place (McKnight et al., 2002, p. 67). A considerably large problem appears to be the length of time that it takes to retrieve information at any given time. This is evidenced by the research that was conducted by McKnight et al., where participants mentioned that this was the number one problem that was faced when dealing with the retrieval of information.

A considerable problem to consider is the lack of information technology in healthcare. Detmer discussed in his findings the fact that quality can significantly be improved through informatics. Evidence of improved access and cost effectiveness should soon follow. Over the next two decades, e-health could deliver patient, provider, and planner/manager interactions for all aspects of health care (Detmer, 2000, p. 181). Detmer continued on to state that this could be a positive move from seeking out errors and problems to information systems whose processes prevent many adverse outcomes. When the problem becomes one of error and miscommunication, one needs to do all that is necessary in order to correct the problem. McKnight et al. continued to report how physicians and nurses both report how there were problems with having updated information both web based as well as written copy (McKnight et al., 2002).

A question that also comes to mind is the concern of training or lack there of. Not only should all current systems of information and resources be overhauled, there is also a need to train individuals on how to use all available resources properly. To understand aspects of using Health Information Technology (HIT) for quality improvement, some of its features need elaboration. The initial goal for computer systems is simply to automate earlier paper- or telephone – based interactions considered essential. Once accomplished, the pathway for new process and features has been paved (Detmer, 2000, p. 182).

From here, the only possible outcome is growth and improvement. The first step is recognizing the problem. Poor information retrieval sources as well as out of date information has proven to be an obstacle. Now there are ideas for advancement and improvement. Large steps will need to be taken in the form of training and ongoing education. One thing not really research was the actual training that was acquired to use the different retrieval sources in the first place. This could prove to be an issue that was to long over looked. Responsibility is also imperative in the process of maintaining information. There should be a designations made of specific individuals that are responsible for all databases being updated. This may actually be a situation where outsourcing may become necessary if there is not a way to do it internally. A plan should be constructed that will allow for all users of any given retrieval source to take classes that will give proper training in those information sources that one would use. One hopes that once all end users have been trained, and there has been someone designated to maintain the system to keep it accurate and check for errors, a large percentage of the information issue should dissipate, and over time become non-existent.


Detmer, D.E. (2000, July 6). Information technology for quality health care: a summary of United Kingdom and United States experiences. Quality in Health Care, 9, pp. 181-189.

McKnight, L.K., Stetson, P.D., Bakken, S., Curran, C., & Cimino, J.J. (2002, 2002). Perceived Information Needs and Communication Difficulties of Inpatient Physicians and Nurses. Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, 9, pp. 64-69.