Technology is all around us and there is no doubt that technology has radically transformed our lives. The medical landscape has not been left behind either, with technology improving the provision of healthcare services by nurses and other healthcare professionals as well as helping improve healthcare outcomes for patients. With most healthcare professionals agreeing with technology occupying such a prominent space in healthcare, there is no doubt that it is impacting patient care both positively and negatively. In this article, we will look at how technology is impacting both nursing and the nursing practice today.
Improving Access to Both Patients and Their Data
Telehealth has played a huge role in allowing patients to access healthcare and for nurses to access their patients. Telehealth uses various technologies including video messaging, remote patient monitoring, and health apps to connect patients and their nurses. These technologies combined help nurses provide care to patients no matter where they may be in the world, as long as they have an internet connection.
Also, telehealth has allowed nurses to ensure compliance especially for patients who might forget to take their medication and who need constant reminders and check-ups.
Electronic health records (EHRs) have reduced the reliance on paper records in nursing. Electronic health records hold digital records of all patient information, including their medical history, medications, primary care providers, medications, allergies, and anything else their nurses need to know.
By having this information accessible to nurses, EHRs have improved the clarity and accuracy of patient records, which has made nurses more efficient and reduced errors in medication administration, for example. This data can also be sent to another healthcare institution easily if a patient chooses to get treated there. This has made the work of their new nurses a lot easier as the nurses will have everything they need to know about their new patient in one convenient place.
Technology Helps Reduce Human Errors
With the ongoing nursing shortage and a lot of healthcare institutions mildly or severely understaffed, nurses are routinely being asked to work long hours or days they would otherwise not be required to work. Nurses working in these understaffed facilities are at a higher risk of making medical errors, the most common error being in the administration of medication.
The EHRs discussed above let nurses quickly see which medications they need to give which patients. They also let nurses see which medications particular patients are allergic to. This helps prevent the administration of the wrong medication or medication that a patient is allergic to.
Electronic medication administration is also being used to help prevent errors involving the administration of medication. This system embeds medication information into scannable barcodes so nurses can get all the information they need about a drug at a glance and know the correct dosage, both of which help prevent dangerous and often fatal mistakes.
Automated IV pumps are also being used to administer medication in hospitals. These systems measure the amount administered and help nurses change the dosage and amount quickly.
Helping Alleviate The Impact of the Nursing Shortage
There are a lot of places in the world where the nursing shortage is being felt a lot more than in other places. This includes rural settings that may have the necessary facilities but not enough healthcare providers. Telehealth can help address the nursing shortages in such settings as it can help nurses provide care at these facilities remotely.
Additionally, nurses who have some free time can offer a few hours a week to help out in remote settings. This also helps reduce the burden placed on the nurses in these locations by helping different facilities essentially share the same healthcare practitioners.
Wireless Patient Monitoring
There are lots of mobile apps helping record patient information for review by nurses and physicians. These apps can help nurses offer advice as well as consult doctors on the best way to get better healthcare outcomes for their patients. Using the information sent by these applications, nurses can offer advice and care, thereby helping reduce ER visits as well as improve their patients’ health outcomes.
An interesting case of the use of wireless technology is in hospital settings. Wireless patient monitoring tools are being used to monitor falls in hospitals. The failure to prevent falls or rescue falling patients in time costs hospitals a lot of money and increases hospital stays for patients. Hospitals that choose to absorb the cost associated with these falls end up straining their monetary resources.
Healthcare facilities are now embedding sensors in patients’ mattresses. These sensors alert nurses when patients who are prone to or at risk of falling leave their beds. By intervening quickly, nurses protect their patients, reduce their hospital visits and help hospitals save money that could be invested elsewhere.
Technology Is Helping Nurses Advance Their Careers
The demand for advanced practice nurses such as Family Nurse Practitioners is growing. Nurses who want to get into these positions are required to hold master’s degrees or post-master’s certificates in nursing. Universities that provide these degrees understand that many of the nurses wishing to enroll in these programs are already practicing and therefore need to find a way to provide these advanced degrees in a way that is compatible with practicing nurses.
Technology has enabled universities to offer advanced degrees, with fully online courses like the online Master of Science in Nursing – Family Nurse Practitioner and Post-Master’s Certificate – Family Nurse Practitioner programs now available to nurses who would like to get into advanced nursing roles.
With these advanced degrees, nurses can have a bigger impact on healthcare and how it is provided, gain the necessary skills to become leaders in the nursing field, ensure better patient outcomes, and a lot more. Nurses who enroll in online Master of Science in Nursing – Family Nurse Practitioner and Post-Master’s Certificate – Family Nurse Practitioner programs also understand advanced nursing from different perspectives which allows them to seek opportunities and have career advancement paths that would otherwise not be available to them.
Big Data Is Changing Nursing
Hospitals that use electronic health records or collect information from their patients through wearable technology often have a massive amount of data on their patients. This data can be analyzed and interpreted to better serve patient needs.
An area where big data is being used in nursing is in the personalization of services and to provide a better patient experience. As healthcare facilities move to a patient-centered model, they have to understand their patients’ habits and experiences to provide them with the best care. Using patient information, nurses can help make healthcare services better, more friendly, and personalized for certain patients or types of patients.
Technology is Helping Save Nurses A lot of Time
Research has shown that nurses spend about 30 minutes every shift tracking down equipment like EKG machines, IV units, and other equipment necessary in patient care. This leads to a huge time sink when you consider the number of nurses working at any one healthcare facility. Nurses are also required to track other nurses, physicians, and patients who wander away from their beds which ends up wasting even more time. All of this time would be better utilized in the provision of patient care.
Hospitals are starting to adopt real-time location systems. These systems use tags that contain transmitters. They can be attached to machines and people and allow them to be tracked no matter where they may be. Using these systems, nurses can save a lot of time as they can locate anyone or any machine within their facilities.
The efficiency and time-saving benefits this technology affords nurses has helped boost overall healthcare and patient outcomes.
It is Helping Improve Communication
Multiple healthcare professionals, including nurses, are usually involved in a patient’s treatment and recovery journey. All of these professionals need to communicate, with miscommunication having dire consequences on patient care and health as well as the healthcare institution. EHRs have already made the communication of vital information easier. Other communication means such as video calls and various messaging options have also made it easier for healthcare providers to discuss patient cases and for nurses to find out how best to care for particular patients.
Good communication is also at the center of patient-centered care. Patients who are fully involved in their treatment and care often have better healthcare outcomes. Nurses can now communicate directly with their patients through emails, text messaging, and online portals. This is especially important for nurses taking care of patients who self-monitor and who receive care from their homes.
It is Impacting the Human Element Negatively
Although technology affords nurses a lot of benefits, it also comes with some drawbacks. An obvious drawback is the reduction of the human element in patient care. Technology is threatening to replace personal interactions between patients and their nurses. For the best outcomes, nurses are required to establish relationships with their patients and their families. Nurses need these relationships to ensure things like compliance and treatment follow-ups. They do this by explaining medications, monitoring vitals, and providing advice to patients about their care.
By using technologies such as those used in telehealth or even tablets to record patient information, there is a lot less face-to-face interaction. In places where robots are being used to provide care to the elderly such as in Japan, patients often feel the impact of less human interaction and empathy because these robots provide none. Although these robots and other technologies have their place in healthcare, we still have a long way to go to understand their impact on the human element in healthcare.
Generational Divide and Feelings of Alienation
Nurse leaders, executives, and administrators understand how the use of technology in nursing practice can impact nurses from different generations. Although younger nurses, most of whom have grown with technology, can adapt easily, older nurses may feel alienated if they cannot pick up the technology they are required to use fast enough. Because baby boomer nurses are seen as lacking in tech skills and slow to adopt them, these advancements can lead to them leaving the field if they feel they cannot keep up.
Security and Data Threats
Security threats and data breaches are becoming a major concern in healthcare as healthcare facilities rely more on technology for things like record keeping. Health records are increasingly being stored in the cloud which is making them more susceptible to attacks. The growing black market for patient data has also helped accelerate targets towards hospitals.
The rise of ransomware targeting healthcare facilities is concerning, with the weak link often being employees who click malicious links or download malicious software on their computers. These risks to hospital management systems and patient data are starting to make hospitals wary of storing patient data on the cloud.
Technology Can Lead To Poor Healthcare Outcomes
One of the reasons why technology is often discouraged in settings such as nursing is that people get too comfortable and start relying on it too much. By thinking that technology is faster, smarter, and more accurate than nurses, people start questioning it less and stop thinking for themselves. This happens even in cases where there is something obviously wrong.
Although technology is helping make nurses more efficient and is reducing human errors, it cannot do everything for us. Human efficiency thought, feelings, relationships, and communication should always be central to healthcare. Technology should not replace any of these things but instead, help make them better.
Although rare, there is still the chance of errors which means nurses and other healthcare professionals should check all their treatments, diagnosis, and care plans to ensure they are accurate.
Technology has become the biggest driver of change in the world, and particularly in the provision of health care. Nurses can benefit a lot from the use of technology. The increased efficiency, better patient outcomes, and reduction in human errors that technology affords us should be lauded. However, nurses and other healthcare providers should understand that technology is fallible and should be aware of its weaknesses and drawbacks when making any technology one of their professional tools.