The Future of Nursing Analytics and Big Data

View all blog posts under Articles | View all blog posts under Nursing Resources

A group of nurse practitioners meet around a conference table.

Big data is changing how business is conducted in industries as diverse as entertainment, education, and finance. Simply defined as very large amounts of data that are analyzed to provide value to a group or an individual, these mass quantities of information provide insight into daily staff operations, executive decision-making, consumer marketing, and more.

Health care is no exception to this trend, especially in regard to nursing analytics. The data that is analyzed and leveraged in this field is gathered from a variety of sources, including electronic health records (EHRs), medical histories, provider notes and mobile applications, creating an accumulation of personalized health information around each individual.

Nursing is a thriving, evolving field, and students interested in advancing their careers should consider a degree that covers issues crucial to modern nursing, such as statistical procedures and evidence-based practice, like a Master of Science in Nursing — Family Nurse Practitioner.

The Future of Big Data in Nursing

Information as power is not a new concept, even if the expanding reach of technology has fundamentally changed the collection and implementation of that information. Chiefly, big data, the comprehensive analysis of massive amounts of information, has played a critical role in revolutionizing business practices and industry procedures the world over, including health care.

The future of big data is intrinsically tied to how nursing practices will develop, so it is important to understand how that information influences nursing on a broader scale.

1. Documentation

When it comes to recording and storing information, nurses are on the front lines. Data capture begins the moment that a patient registers at a health care group and continues through oral medical histories, blood draws, and every other step of the episode of care. From test results to billing codes, nurses at all levels regularly record, verify or leverage information. When these components are completed correctly, the mass quantities of data created by all the patients in an organization, or even across the country, are valuable for improving care and best practices within a group.

An article from Cleveland Clinic’s ConsultQD encourages nurses to consider several major questions before they translate big data into research data, including the following:

  • Is each variable clearly defined? If the definitions of those variables have changed over time, are those definitions available?
  • Has the data been consistently and accurately recorded?
  • At what rate has the data been missing from the results?
  • Are compliance standards in place and rigorously followed?

2. Staffing

Ensuring appropriate staffing levels is another area of nursing practice affected by the future of big data. Schedules continually change, and staffing requirements fluctuate with demand based on the number of patients and their needs. In most industries, if a team is short-staffed, employees do their best to make do, and deal with any consequences down the line. When a nursing team is short-staffed, the situation can literally be a matter of life and death. Using big data, nursing leaders can more effectively determine how many staff members they will need at any given time.

Adequate staffing levels also help to prevent nursing burnout. According to a 2020 survey by the UK-based Nursing Times, which took into account 91 papers written on the subject, high job demands, role conflict and high patient complexity predicted the emotional exhaustion found in most burnout cases. This level of extreme tiredness can negatively impact patient care.

3. Evidence-Based Best Practices

When providing care to patients, nurses want to be confident that their decisions are based on the optimal treatment strategy. Big data makes it easier than ever to determine best practices and ensure that they are used within the organization. Studies have suggested that implementing evidence-based best practices have a number of positive benefits in clinical care, including the following:

  • Improving patient outcomes
  • Cutting down on unnecessary procedures
  • Enhancing patient safety

This principle also has an impact on nursing analytics, education and research, ensuring that time and other resources are maximized by using the most efficient and effective practices.

4. Workflow

With big data, nurses can use data analysis to determine the most efficient way to treat patients, from how to document their visits to the most effective way to staff a unit. This type of analysis offers powerful information for both creating guidelines and legislation at the federal or state level and determining how individual organizations should operate.

Big data used to analyze workflow can also provide decision support, which will give nurses the confidence that they need when it comes to deciding the best course of action when caring for patients.

5. New Roles

In addition to improving existing practices, big data is creating new opportunities for nurses. Within traditional positions, the growing emphasis on the collection and use of data from systems such as EHRs can already be seen. However, this trend is also creating a number of new job titles for tech-savvy nurses who want to combine their passion for the future of big data with a background in clinical care:

  • Nurse informaticists: The role of nurse informaticist combines nursing practice with information and communication technology to enhance patient care. Nurse informaticists also help shape practices and policies regarding health information technology at health care organizations.
  • Chief nursing informatics officers: In the health care executive suite, an emerging role for nurses is that of the chief nursing informatics officer. The CNIO acts as a liaison between nursing staff and information technology efforts and ensures that regulatory changes are met at all times.
  • Clinical nurse leaders: Though clinical nurse leader is not a new position, it has evolved with the introduction of big data. Nursing professionals who wish to advance to this role will benefit from a background in informatics and other areas of data use in the clinical setting.

Take Your Nursing Career to the Next Level

Big data is not going anywhere. Fortunately, educational institutions have adapted their nursing curricula to benefit students interested in accelerating their careers and learning valuable skills. Bradley University’s online MSN-FNP program offers courses such as Health Informatics and Statistical Procedures to provide a holistic approach to nursing education, reflecting the influence of data and information as their importance continues to manifest within the nursing field.

Learn more about what the university has to offer, and feel confident that you are making the right decision for your career.

Recommended Readings

Protecting Patient Data: Cybersecurity Tips for FNPs

What Does the Future of the Nursing Industry Look Like?

Online Nursing Programs


ConsultQD, Using Big Data in Clinical Nursing Research

Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, Resource Center

Monster, “This Is the One Thing All Nurses Need to Know to Future-Proof Their Careers”

Nursing Times, Burnout in Nursing: What Have We Learnt and What Is Still Unknown?