Data Integrity in Healthcare: Impact on Nursing Practice and Patient Care
Information technologies are strongly connected with most people’s activities. Healthcare, including nurse services, is not an exception. There are various implementations of technologies in nursing, starting with keeping records of patients and ending with automated staff scheduling. Integration of modern devices benefits all interested parties by changing healthcare activities. With the modification of data management, healthcare in general and nursing care, in particular, has been significantly changed. Therefore, data integrity is vital in such a setting. This paper examines data integrity, its impact on the treatment process and professional nursing performance, the required skills for implementing innovations, and its legal and ethical implications.
“Data integrity” is a combination of electronic and administrative measures which guarantee the safety of clients’ personal information, including protected access and protection against external influences. Protected access means that healthcare information should be accessed only by specialists authorized to do so. Electronic also measures include protecting software and reliable hardware. Moreover, data integrity significantly impacts nursing practice, as nurses often interact with data. They provide the largest records to evaluate, intervene, plan, and assess their clients. Specialists in this sphere should be familiar with information technologies. In addition, data integrity imposes specific requirements for information, namely, clearness, accuracy, precision, and convenience for further use.
Data integrity is strongly connected with “Electronic Health Records” (EHR). It represents a cross-institutional, comprehensive, and longitudinal assemblage of healthcare data about a patient. It includes information not only about current treatment but also data about a patient’s health in general.
The advantages of electronic records’ use are obvious:
- Important data is more accurate, readable, better organized, and complete than paper records.
- It increases staff productivity, for patient information is available at any time and in any convenient location. This results in healthcare improvement due to making timely decisions according to valid data.
- Retaining all necessary data together makes comparing current and previous health issues easy.
- Technologies benefit nursing practice through the provision of general access to EHR.
In addition, implementing technologies, EHR, and well-organized data storage improves documentation and care quality. “Best Research Evidence” is a methodology that covers healthcare-related research about the safety and effectiveness of nursing interventions. Nurses must make management decisions that influence patients’ interests in their professional activities. The balance of advantages and risks is central to evidence-based nursing (EBN). This approach significantly improves the quality of nursing services and positively changes nursing care delivery.
According to statistics, about 30-40 percent of patients in the USA do not receive appropriate treatment. 20-25% percent report about the provision of useless or even harmful care. However, to benefit from EBN, nurses must obtain certain skills, such as defining the problem correctly, conducting an efficient search to detect the best evidence, and considering the implications of evidence in the context of a particular patient treatment. However, practical usage of EBN meets individual barriers, such as nurses’ lack of confidence and isolation from colleagues to discuss the research. Furthermore, nurses report the inability to conduct research due to a lack of time, inadequate library holdings, and a lack of nursing research journals in healthcare institutions.
EHR should meet certain requirements and be formed accurately, as they may include audit trails, backups, and snapshots of data, as well as be cloud-based or have high availability. However, there sometimes occur data entry failures. For example, a specialist may make an input error by hitting an incorrect keyboard key or selecting the wrong item on the screen. These errors can be avoided by educating staff, ensuring accuracy, and applying data verification technologies.
The cost of implementing, developing, and maintaining technologies is another significant obstacle to using technologies in the healthcare system. Due to the high cost of devices, there are few fully equipped medical centers, whereas most are partially equipped or unprovided with technologies. According to statistics, only eight percent of 5000 hospitals in the USA use computer documentation. Staff training also requires time and additional expenses. Consequently, the implementation of innovations often needs to be improved. Research shows that implementing EHR as a change from paper-based systems is an influential challenge. Surprisingly, resistance slightly decreases after the specialist starts using the new EHR.
Moreover, electronic health records can raise legacy and ethical issues. Keeping health information in one place endangers its safety. Therefore, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) has developed privacy standards to protect vulnerable information. Any healthcare facility that keeps patients’ records should comply with HIPAA security. Care providers can also use cloud storage, encryption, and password protection as security measures. In addition, a mechanism for mobile device protection should be developed, as they can be easily stolen, damaged, or misplaced. Anti-virus software, intrusion detection software, and a firewall can enhance security.
Howard University Hospital, Washington, was involved in data breaches. One of the hospital’s medical technicians was charged with violating HIPAA on May 14, 2013. Prosecutors insisted that Laurie Napper had used her professional position to gain private information about clients, such as their names, Medicare numbers, and addresses, for 17 months to sell it. After a plea hearing, which was set on June 12, she was sentenced to six months in a halfway house and a $2000 fine. Later, the same hospital informed more than 34 000 patients about intrusion into their medical data. A constructor has downloaded clients’ files to his laptop and left them in his car. Unfortunately, it was stolen, and an intruder accessed patients’ private data. These examples prove that data security is a serious concern that caregivers must carefully consider. In addition to safety measures against outer attacks, there should be a protection system against possible illicit actions of staff.
Speaking about personal experience, I observed a situation involving a data issue. This happened when I was receiving healthcare, not in my professional performance. I was at the reception, waiting for an appointment with my doctor. The hall was crowded. A woman at the reception desk was speaking to a nurse. I noticed that the woman started to gesticulate actively and raised her voice. Soon other people noticed that something was going wrong. The conflict was caused by the nurse refusing to give the lady documents. The nurse explained that the name in the database did not match the lady’s passport. However, other information was relevant, including date of birth and a photo. The woman said that she had visited the hospital before, and this was her second visit. Conflicting sides could not agree. Fortunately, there was another nurse who recognized the woman. The nurses consulted with the administration, changed the record in the database, and apologized to the woman.
This experience is an example of a data entry mistake. It proves that incorrect data can lead to conflicts or cause complicated issues. Healthcare staff should be responsible for the information that they operate with. However, clients should also carefully check their data to prevent conflicts or harm to their health.
Consequently, the healthcare system has significantly changed due to the implementation of information technologies. Integration of modern devices and techniques brings considerable benefits to caregiving. Advantages of data integrity include better-organized data, readability, ease of use, and maintenance. However, there are certain obstacles to technology integration. They can be divided into individual and organizational. Individual ones include:
- Personal resistance.
- A lack of required skills.
- A need for more confidence in changes.
- Organizational obstacles cover the cost of the development and maintenance of information systems and expenses on staff training.
The latest research will impact my nursing care. The information outlined herein emphasizes the importance of nurses becoming familiar with information technologies. Soon, the number of operations performed with the help of electronic devices will increase. Healthcare staff will have to obtain new technical skills to work with data. For this reason, I will pay particular attention to information technology education and training. It is important to learn specialized software and the management of databases.
Moreover, certain personal characteristics are essential for caregiving. Searching skill is an important feature of providing appropriate health care, as it is fundamental for an efficient, evidence-based approach. Confidence is also required to take the necessary risk to meet patients’ interests. Finally, readiness to change is a basic characteristic in successful nursing care, as it helps to find and implement innovative solutions.
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