Highlights Of The Eleventh Nursing Informatics Conference Congress

The response from those people who attended the Nursing Informatics Congress held in Montreal was overwhelming for the organisers. Many favourable comments were made during the event itself. Congress attendees were so pleased with the experience, held in June 2012, that responses such as, “Best meeting ever!” and “Never been to one like it!” were commonplace. A number of attendees praised the one-on-one sessions as well as group meetings. One attendee reported to the conference organisers that she had found it to be a great learning and networking experience with people from all around the world.

Given the popularity of the congress - from the 600 plus people who attended, at least- what was it in the content that made the event such a success? Firstly, tutorial sessions began early on the first day of the congress, with little preamble. Attendees were, in other words, immediately thrown into the business end of information sharing.

Tutorials into social media data and web mining began as early as 8.30am during the initial sessions. Other tutorial options at that time included one on the principles and practices of project management for nurses and another on nursing Involvement in the HL7 standards development process. An alternative tutorial session, which also began on the first morning, dealt with visualisation of healthcare and was entitled “Communicating Healthcare Data with Tables, Graphs and Dashboards.” Few nursing informaticians, therefore, could complain that the congress was not fully engaged with its theme – advancing global health through informatics – right from the outset.

The evening of the first day followed up on this start with no less than five separate workshops. These included sessions that handled research priorities in nursing informatics specifically in the area of improving care and one that was designed to help attendees understand technology in health care from both clinician and patient perspectives. Following a 7.30am start for registration, those attendees who stayed right until the end of proceedings on the first day had been immersed in nursing informatics for a full twelve hour period.

Day two of the congress was similar in nature with five separate tutorials that were on offer, following a registration procedure. One of these was designed for newcomers to informatics and provided an introduction to the science of the practice. Another was a typically high-tech session which centred on modern web technologies in relation to social networking and healthcare. In the afternoon there were no less than seven different scientific sessions. These ranged from one that dealt with the challenges and solutions for inclusion of nursing statistics in data warehouses, to another that handled processes in managing so-called eHealth. Further scientific sessions followed over the third and fourth days of the congress. The final day had morning sessions only, with a keynote and closing address by Doctor Patricia Flatley-Brennan to bring proceedings to an uplifting end.

Attendees over the full course of the congress included nurses, midwives and other care professionals. There was also a strong contingent of scientists from around the globe. Each of the groups were able to meet and exchange ideas on the way informatics is impacting on care improvement as well as other areas of health, such as professional practice, health policy and scientific research. No less than 38 countries from around the world had delegates that attended, making the congress a truly international event.

One of the major topics discussed during the congress was some proposed new bylaws. These had been redrafted to align with new regulations laid down by nursing informatics’ parent body, IMIA. These rules had already been circulated for comments from attendees and so only needed a final discussion on the areas that had been altered or those that required a further clarification. By the end of the conference the bylaws had been ratified by the General Assembly and it was agreed that they would be sent for approval by IMIA at their next meeting, later in the year.

Another major item that came up for discussion was how the nursing informatics conferences would be scheduled in the future. As result of the debate into the matter it was decided to hold future congresses every two years, rather than every three as had previously been the case. The next international nursing informatics conference is already scheduled to be held in Taipei, Taiwan in 2014. The following one will, therefore, run in 2016 in an as yet undetermined host nation.

As you might expect, the congress had a number of keynote addresses. The conference’s opening speech was given by Judith Shamain, President and CEO Victorian Order of Nurses in Canada. Shamain spoke on the subject of change management and emphasised its importance, urging nurses to look at different ways of developing new systems and to overcome everyday practices. She said that both politicians and scientists need to understand each other if they are to work together to provide high quality healthcare.

Another noteworthy keynote speech was given by Victor Strecher of the School of Public Health and Medicine at the University of Michigan. He focussed on decision making as a route to improved health care stating that up to half of all deaths are down to decisions made by health care professionals. Strecher advocated the use of interactive media which, he claimed, is a good deal better than print media but one that health information professionals have thus far been shy of embracing fully.

The conference also encouraged attendees to attend a local hospital where new technology was in the process of being piloted. At the nearby McGill University Health Care campus, visitors were able to see the use of mobile technology in action to both record and share patient information. The hospital has complied guidelines for the use of handheld mobile devices to ensure that areas such as patient confidentiality, professionalism and infection control are dealt with appropriately.

For many who attended, the congress was the most forward thinking and in-depth yet, covering a wider range specialties than ever before. It is hoped that the next congress will build on the success that the Montreal organisers were able to realise.

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