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Technology has changed the way we communicate, listen to music, exercise, shop, play games, and much more. So, it’s no surprise that we are seeing technology extend its reach into the healthcare industry as well. Technology has brought about a massive and welcome change to the healthcare arena and nurses throughout the country are relying more and more on these advances. While technology could never take the place of the personal touch and human care provided by nurses, it can definitely make their job much simpler. Here are 8 ways technology is transforming the way nurses provide patient care.
Telehealth is an emerging field that is just starting to find a more mainstream place in modern healthcare. Healthcare has almost always been provided in person, but with the development of smart phones and the ability to video call someone, healthcare can be provided in some cases without ever meeting the patient face-to-face.
While telehealth might seem like it would only apply to people who aren’t that sick at home, ICU’s and other hospital floors are now using video systems where a team of healthcare professionals can remotely monitor and provide care to the patient. Telehealth in hospitals has created the opportunity for small hospitals to provide advanced healthcare services without having those professionals in-house. As the technology and applications continue to develop, telehealth will doubtlessly become more common.
One of the most significant advances to charting in the last decade has been the use of electronic health records (EHR). Hospital and clinical offices have shifted from using paper charting that can be difficult to read or may get lost to using computer charting systems that allow nurses to review orders, see data, and chart patient assessments in computer software. This makes it easier to access information in real time and helps to reduce potential errors.
Communication between healthcare providers is very important, especially in a busy hospital setting. Within the last decade, wireless communication systems have made it much easier for nurses to quickly and effectively communicate with other healthcare professionals. Some systems use smartphone technology to allow nurses to message or call other members of the healthcare team. Other communication technology allows nurse to communicate hands-free, using voice-activated communication devices to call other team members. This is especially helpful in nursing where nurses hands are often occupied when they need help.
Hospital beds are no longer just a place for patients to rest and sleep; recent advances have lead to the development of smart beds. These hospital beds can perform a variety of functions that can make it easier to take care of patients. Some beds are able to reposition patients, shifting the weight frequently and preventing bedsores. This reduces the time that nurses have to come in to manually reposition patients. Smart beds can also weigh patients in the bed, and sometimes even take vital signs. Smart beds may also have sensors that can alert the nurse if a patient is getting out of bed, reducing the risk of patient falls.
IV pumps have become more complex over the last decade, going from a simple machine that infused IV fluids or medications at a set rate, to automated pumps that can hold libraries of different medications, ensuring the correct dose is given. IV pumps may be programmed to start and stop at certain times, give medications at varying rates, depending upon the situation, and may communicate with other devices.
Location sensors have become more common and are used for a variety of purposes in hospitals. They can help to keep track of equipment, making it easier to find equipment that may have been moved or misplaced. Location sensors are also sometimes used to keep track of the movements of nursing staff and are able to determine if a nurse has washed their hands when leaving a room, if a nurse is in a room, and how long the nurse spends in each room. While the data obtained by these sensors can provide valuable information, depending on how they are used, they can also be viewed negatively by some nurses who find the level of tracking that these sensors can provide somewhat disconcerting.
TV’s are no longer just a source of entertainment. They can now be used in the hospital setting for patients to communicate with staff, to serve as a distraction for pain, or to teach patients. The teaching component, especially, of smart TV’s allows patients to receive customized education that is detailed and thorough, creating more free time for the nurse to attend to other patients, and complementing teaching that is provided by the nurse.
Point of care (POC) technology is technology that is designed to be used where patient care is being provided. There are several new POC technologies that nurses are using to provide better patient care. One is medication scanners, where a patient’s identification bracelet is scanned, and then their medications are scanned. This both checks with the computer system that the patient and their medications match, and documents that the medication was given. Some patient lab tests can now be done at the bedside, providing immediate results that allow nurses to know lab values within minutes of drawing blood. Vital sign machines are also being equipped with POC technologies that allows nurses to scan the patient and transmit data that is collected, ensuring that the vital signs match the patient and reducing the need to write down the vital signs then manually input them into the charting. Some hospitals are now using iPhones or iPads at the bedside, allowing nurses to view patient information and communicate with the healthcare team while they are with the patient. POC technologies will doubtless continue to play an increasingly important role in nursing care.
Technology is not going away and neither are nurses, but with the advancement of nursing technologies, the physical presence of a nurse, as we know it, will change. It will mean collaborating with the new healthcare technologies, giving up tasks that are well-suited to automation, and leaving more time for the job of nursing. In a world that will soon be functioning largely on autopilot, tech-enabled nurses who value innovation and the visceral human experience will reveal their own value in the process.