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Frequently Asked Questions

1. Do I need to buy a license or rights to the Omaha System in order to use it?

No. The Omaha System has existed in the public domain since 1975, and, therefore, is not held under copyright. The complete terms, definitions, and codes are presented in Appendix A and Appendix E of the 2005 book; they may be used by anyone without permission and without a licensing fee from Health Connections Press or the developers. However, the terms and structure must be used as described in the 2005 book, and referenced (ie 2005 book or Web site).

Other sections of the book are held under copyright by Health Connections Press. For more information, refer to the 2005 book, or contact Health Connections Press directly. Companies who design and sell software based on the Omaha System are also required to observe copyright laws related to the book. 

When purchasing software, customers pay companies for their costs related to software development, maintenance/support, and related business expenses, but customers are not charged for the Omaha System per se.

2. What Omaha System publications are available?

Four official Omaha System books have been published. The correct reference for the current book is: Martin KS. (2005). The Omaha System: A Key to Practice, Documentation, and Information Management (Reprinted 2nd ed.). Omaha, NE: Health Connections Press. To purchase the book (list price $59.95), visit the Health Connections Press Web site (ships quickly). The current book replaces the two 1992 books which have been out of print since 2005; one of those books was translated into Japanese and published in 1997. In addition, 4 federal grant reports and 6 Omaha System International Conference books of handouts have been completed. More than 300 additional diverse publications are listed in References.

3. Who can use the Omaha System?

Current users are nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, social workers/counselors, speech and language pathologists, physicians, registered dieticians, recreational therapists, chaplains, pharmacists, community health workers, chiropractors, and other health care providers. Users also include nursing educators, researchers, and students enrolled in associate to doctoral programs and educators and students from other health-related disciplines.

4. Where can the Omaha System be used?

Current users are located in the USA and many other countries. Omaha System users and agencies provide services across the continuum of care. The location, size, organization, type of services, and range of employees who use the Omaha System are increasingly diverse. User sites include home care, public health, and school health practice settings, nurse-managed center staff, hospital-based and managed care case managers, educators and students, occupational health nurses, faith community staff, acute care and rehabilitation hospital/long-term care staff, researchers, members of various disciplines, and computer software vendors. A number of individuals and groups have developed Omaha System software. Those who sell software commercially and have experience with Omaha System-based electronic health records (EHRs) are listed on Links.

5. How many Omaha System users are there?

Approximately 22,000 practitioners now use point-of-care Omaha System software to document the services they provide nationally and internationally. A small percent of the total use paper-and-pen records.

6. What decision was made in the state of Minnesota that involves the Omaha System? 

In 2014, the Minnesota e-Health Advisory Committee recommended and the Minnesota Commissioner of Health approved recommendations that (1) all Electronic Health Records (EHRs) should use a point-of-care standardized terminology recognized by the American Nurses Association, (2) the terminology should fit their needs, (3) when exchanging a C-CDA with another setting for problems and care plans, SNOMED-CT and LOINC should be used for the exchange, and (4) the Omaha System should be used for exchange between settings that use the Omaha System in their EHRs.

7. How should I, my agency, institution, faculty colleagues, or students approach learning to use the Omaha System?

Learning to use the Omaha System is like learning a new language and should be approached as such. It requires thoughtful practice. The 2005 book should be considered to be a primary, essential resource for learners. Detailed suggestions to promote learning are described in the 2005 book and summarized below.

Diverse resources are listed in sections of this Web site. It is ideal for several members of an agency, institution, or faculty to attend a Basic Omaha System Workshop prior to making decisions about purchasing software or adopting paper-and-pen forms. Videotapes, instructional modules/courses, and contacts including the Minnesota Omaha System Users Group, commercial software developers, and educators are listed in Links. Useful information about the purpose, organization, and benefits of the Omaha System is readily accessible in References. Use these references to increase familiarization with specific Omaha System words (terms and definitions); practice using the Omaha System with case studies included in this Web site and the 18 in the book.

When it is time for implementation, those who have developed Omaha System skills are best able to successfully plan a systematic, incremental, and flexible orientation with clear expectations for their colleagues. Learners quickly recognize that the Omaha System effectively describes client situations, practitioner interventions, and client outcomes. Most learners say the language of the Omaha System is intuitive and easy once they “get the hang of it”. 

8. How long does it take to learn to use the Omaha System?

There are as many answers to that question as there are learners. Some practitioners, educators, and students apply the Omaha System accurately and consistently in a few weeks, and others need several months. Each and every learner must become an active participant in the process and invest time, commitment, repetition, and work. There is no magic wand to bypass the basic steps or to have someone else be responsible for the learner’s thinking or learning. If learners receive appropriate mentoring and feel a sense of ownership, their learning curve will become faster and easier.

9. What factors contribute to Omaha System success?

Each user site has a unique set of circumstances with numerous driving and restraining forces. However, unwavering management support, a sense of teamwork, the presence of a champion(s)/super users, and commitment to evaluation and maintenance are four of the most important contributing factors. Strong leaders contribute to success. It is ideal if at least one person becomes a “superstar”, is passionate about the Omaha System, is skilled using the site’s electronic health record (EHR), and understands the site’s vision for practice, documentation, and information management. Managers and champions need to maintain the vision, develop a quality improvement action plan, and facilitate the use of data and information. User sites can purchase a variety of EHRs. It is the customer’s responsibility to evaluate and select commercially-available software that includes the actual Omaha System, encourages correct use, and is user-friendly. Software vendors who have experience with Omaha System-based EHRs are listed on Links.

10. Is the Omaha System periodically updated to reflect changes in practice, documentation, and information management?

Yes. The Omaha System has been updated numerous times since 1975. In 2001, a 12-member, international Board of Directors was formed with representatives who have diverse practice, education, research, and automation expertise related to the Omaha System. One purpose of this Board is to develop an action plan to review and revise the Omaha System on an ongoing basis, reflecting the results of current research, experiences of national and international expert users, the work of the Minnesota Omaha System Users Group, and all suggestions. More details about the current version of the Omaha System are described in Appendix B. A similar multi-step, triangulated approach will be initiated for the next revision before the Omaha System book is published again.

11.  Is the Omaha System part of national or international activities?

Yes. It was one of the first standardized terminologies recognized by the American Nurses Association to support nursing practice in 1992. It is listed in the US Department of Health and Human Services interoperability standards for electronic health records after successfully passing the Healthcare Information Technology Standards Panel (HITSP) Tier 2 selection criteria for Use Cases in 2007. Additionally, it is integrated into the National Library of Medicine’s Metathesaurus; CINAHL; ABC Codes; NIDSEC; Logical Observation Identifiers, Names, and Codes (LOINC®); and SNOMED CT®. It is registered (recognized) by Health Level Seven (HL7®), and is congruent with the reference terminology model for the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). It meets Medicare/Medicaid, Joint Commission, and CHAP guidelines and regulations.

12. Is the Omaha System available in languages in addition to English?

Yes. The terms, definitions, and codes have been translated into a number of languages by individuals and groups. It was translated into Danish about 1985. Since then, translations include Arabic, Chinese, Czech, Dutch, Estonian, French, German, Greek, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Slovene, Spanish, Swahili, Swedish, Thai, and Turkish. The 1992 Omaha System pocket guide was translated into Japanese in 1997. To date, no other Omaha System books have been translated. If you believe the 2005 book should be translated into the language of your country, please contact Karen Martin.

13. How can I contact others who are using the Omaha System?

Use contact information in this Web site and the Omaha System listserv. In addition, Karen Martin facilitates networking among those interested in the Omaha System, and offers consultation services to prospective, new, and experienced users. She has been involved with Omaha System research, development, and publication since 1978.