Minnesota Nursing magazine

From the Dean

Advancing health with big data science

Connie White DelaneyDear Friends,

All of us are committed to advancing the health and well-being of everyone. As nurses, our daily lives are filled with questions about what is best for our patients, families, communities and entire populations.

We ask: What are the essential components to raising healthy, resilient children? How will I support this homeless teen? What is the most effective staffing model for a hospital oncology unit? What will be the most effective way to support this patient’s management of his diabetes? How do we improve care coordination across the continuum of care?

The infinite number of questions we ask and answer each day are at the heart of nursing practice and research. Our capacity to answer these questions in real time and with precision relies increasingly on big data science in nursing and health care.

When I joined the earliest pioneers in the field of nursing informatics in 1987, I was drawn to the possibility that data could reveal the most effective ways to reduce costs, enhance the patient experience, improve outcomes, and, most significantly, empower and give voice to the patient. These possibilities have been realized in thousands of ways since then. Today, I am part of a team of big data scientists and nurse informaticians at the University of Minnesota who are leading the way.

Robin Austin, Chih-Lin Chi, Thomas Clancy, Madeline Kerr, Karen Monsen, Lisiane Pruinelli, Bonnie Westra and I are conducting research utilizing massive patient data sets, including those available through our partnership with OptumLabs. We share our informatics curricular expertise with college and university faculty nationwide, leveraging support from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and in partnership with the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. This spring, we will host the fifth-annual Nursing Knowledge: Big Data Conference with leaders from nursing, health systems, industry, government and academia to advance a national action plan for sharable, comparable data.

As the No. 2-ranked graduate school in nursing informatics in the nation by US News and World Report, we are dedicated to building the capacity of our students, colleagues and partners to harness the power of big data to answer the questions at the heart of nursing. We keep the soul in our science.

As a society, our evolving capacity to gather, compare and analyze patient data, their experiences, environments and care settings promises to unlock solutions to some of the greatest health care challenges of our time. Nurses, with
our holistic perspective, lead an essential part in transforming health, including embracing technology.

Connie White Delaney
Professor and Dean