With technology underpinning most daily activities, it comes as no surprise that it has also made its way into medicine. From AI surgery to electronic patient record keeping, tech tools today contribute significantly to medical care. In nursing, practitioners integrate technology into patient care without reducing expected person-to-person contact. While some are eager to emphasize that technology can and must never replace the human touch, most medical professionals and hospitals have embraced emerging technology.
According to US government statistics, by 2017 almost all US hospitals had introduced certified Electronic Medical Record (EMR) systems. Electronic record keeping is one of the many areas in which technology can lighten the load of medical professionals. This article examines how nurses leverage technology in their continuous quest for optimum patient outcomes. It also delves into the tech debate among medical professionals while outlining the many tasks technology carries out in today’s healthcare facilities. Lastly, it will look at how nurses use tech tools to gather and analyze patient data to optimize the quality of care.
Technology in everyday nursing
Nursing technology refers to tech tools that help Registered Nurses (RNs) and nursing professionals improve patient care. Examples include electronic record-keeping, devices that automate medicine delivery, and various patient-friendly health apps, among many other tools. During a visit to any hospital, patients may discover a wide range of tech devices contributing to patient care. Broadly speaking, frontline staff and management appear to favor emerging technology despite some drawbacks.
Faster communication, improved efficiency, and easier access to patient records are among the chief advantages of using technology in nursing. However, nurses face a steep learning curve when working with technology. Equipment errors may occur, which can be problematic, primarily if staff heavily rely on the tools. The operation and implementation of technology tools and systems demand significant expertise from nursing staff, meaning they must invest time and effort to get familiar with technology use.
Professionals rallying against the overuse of technology worry that medical professionals may end up paying more attention to the technology than patients. They may miss vital signs warranting action because the technology has not alerted them. Yet most medical professionals agree that technology streamlines many processes, thus freeing up valuable time and resources, which can then be invested in direct patient care.
The debate will likely continue. No doubt, over time, nurses will find a way to make technology work for them in the delivery of optimal patient care.
Tech tools every nursing professional will likely use
Numerous technology devices have become everyday tools in many healthcare facilities.
Electronic medical records
EMRs have made the lives of medical professionals far easier. They no longer need to store and retrieve paper documents. Access, information searches, and insights are now available via EMRs within seconds. Medical professionals can share patient data far more readily, thus improving patient care.
Today’s physicians and nursing staff access patient information via mobile devices, tablets, or laptops. They can quickly gain insight into patients’ health status, treatment, and medication at their bedside. Patients benefit from the instant care, while errors are less likely to occur.
Smart beds and electronic lifting systems
Smart beds track patient vitals using sensors and monitoring devices, thus providing staff with an extra layer of patient care. Patient lifting systems allow nursing staff to help patients with mobility issues without overstraining their own bodies.
Electronic IV pumps
Administering and maintaining IV pumps to patients needing medication and nutrition is time-consuming and labor-intensive. Nurses can enter drip rates and dosages on automatic IV pumps, knowing the device will maintain the drip correctly. Using automatic IV pumps translates into significant timesaving.
Telehealth devices enable patients who may not be able or need to travel to a practice to see medical professionals. Via telehealth video conferencing software, medical professionals can consult with patients and determine whether they need to attend in person. These devices have provided a significant care improvement for patients living in remote arrears or those unable to travel to see medical staff.
Smartphones and health apps
Nursing staff can quickly communicate with patients and families while collaborating with medical staff. Using health-related apps, they can also monitor patient information, track progress, and support patients with health-related information. Some apps link in with other medical devices to further improve patient care. Scheduling apps are also top-rated among medical professionals and patients.
Via wearable medical devices, nurses can care for their patients while they are away from the medical facility. They can monitor a patient’s heart rate, blood pressure, and other vital signs via a wearable device. As a result, patients become more independent without suffering a drop in care quality, and medical facilities can increase capacity.
Technology has also changed the way nurses train and study, with online learning growing more popular by the day. Student nurses and nursing professionals partaking in continuing education can do so from the comfort of their own homes.
All the above tech tools have scaled the quality of care while streamlining many arduous processes. Time-savings are significant, meaning nursing professionals have more time for face-to-face contact thanks to all the med-tech devices. Still, the debate among health professionals is far from over, with the advantages and disadvantages emerging loudly and clearly on both sides.
Tech tool benefits for patients and nurses
The development of med-tech devices continues to change care delivery and, for the most part, make the work of medical professionals easier. Patients benefit from added efficiency, and families experience a more streamlined care system.
Technology has made many work processes far more efficient. From record-keeping, information access, and communication between medical professionals to error-free monitoring, technology has taken on numerous tasks previously stressed staff. Nursing staff no longer have to take on many of the most time-consuming and arduous work processes. Technology devices have stepped in, significantly lightening the workload.
Outstanding communication is one of the cornerstones of quality patient care, made easy by the availability of technology. Teams can send instant messages, consult remotely, gather, and assimilate or share vital patient information. Where medical staff would previously have to wait for responses and struggle to arrange suitable meeting times, tech devices have eliminated all communication delays.
Electronic record-keeping has been a game-changer for the nursing profession too. Keeping paper records is not only time and resource-consuming but also requires effort. Today’s nurses can enter and access patient data quickly without worrying about the paper trail.
With technology now processing much of the bureaucratic drudgery, nurses are less likely to burnout or feel overworked.
Tech tool drawbacks
On the flipside, medical technology produces daily challenges on top of the already stretched capacity among nursing staff. Not only must nursing professionals invest a great deal of time and energy into training in med-tech device use, but they also encounter tech-related problems such as malfunctions.
The main disadvantage of the technology lies in the challenges presented during the implementation phase. Integrating technology into everyday care takes time, knowledge, and patience, meaning nurses must display added skill and perseverance. While the benefits of technology use may be real and tangible, the difficulties arising during the integration process are equally pressing.
Tech device malfunctions occur no matter how sophisticated the technology. Staff must then know how to address errors and spend time seeking technical support. As the devices play a part in life-or-death situations, faults can be most unwelcome.
The steep learning curve nurse practitioners must climb is among the most significant disadvantages. Using technology for everyday nursing requires know-how and experience, which doesn’t come without a substantial time investment. Nurse educators must step up by providing technology training, while healthcare facility managers must deliver continuing support.
Overreliance on technology is the core point of contention. Tech skeptics fear medical professionals will use technology at a high cost to in-person patient care. They lament that some staff pay more attention to the devices than patients. During examinations, they may record device data and ignore emerging symptoms as described by patients.
The debate will likely continue, highlighting the need to integrate med-tech with a great deal of sensitivity, empathy, and emotional intelligence.
Mastering nursing technology
While it makes sense that new technologies play a crucial role in modern healthcare, the significant efforts necessary on the part of nurses to learn how to use new technology should not be overlooked. The onus is on nurse educators to provide adequate training so that nursing staff can reap the benefits without risking patient health.
Many nursing colleges, including those offering candidates the opportunity to earn an onsite Bachelor’s or an online MSN program, already invest significant time and energy into med-tech education. A great example is the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) course at Wilkes University. This program involves fully online coursework with no campus visits required. The curriculum covers numerous tech tools that nurses will need to be familiar with, plus the choice of three concentrations depending on the career goals of the students.
A 2015 US study into the use of technical skills and devices among nurses revealed that a significant proportion reported training gaps. With a focus on freshly qualified RNs, the study aimed to establish the technical skills and scope for continuing med-tech learning. The study also examined the perceptions among nurses. Half of all study participants reported using technology daily, with three-quarters expressing the need for ongoing training but less than half having access to such education. Nearly half of the participants experienced incidents of a technical nature, but many of them were never reported. Almost a third of nurses admitted to not following guidelines and observed a lack of performance evaluation.
The researchers concluded that educators must improve technology training while providing nurses with evidence-based guidelines and adequate supervision to strengthen patient safety.
How practice nurses research, study, and evaluate data
Emerging technology has helped reshape patient care by scaling the efficacy and precision of treatments. Data from textbooks, research and case studies, medical papers and reviews, and clinical experience underpin clinical care. Thanks to modern technology, assimilating and analyzing such data has become far more reliable, allowing for quality evidence-based practice. Diagnoses are more accurate, and medical professionals can use technology to create personalized recovery plans, thus improving overall health outcomes.
In evidence-based medicine, nursing professionals can use technology to gather and analyze data while creating patient treatment solutions. Whereas before the emergence of technology, they would have had to study physical documents to extricate relevant data, they can now use sophisticated medical technology to produce the data in minutes. While the technology lends itself well to such processes, health managers and nursing leaders must fully understand evidence-based medicine and how technology can supplement but not replace the practice.
Day-to-day, nursing staff can contribute data through their practice, delivering valuable resources for future treatments. They can also call upon the existing pool of data and knowledge when shaping tailored patient treatment plans.
The transition from paper to computer data will take time. The more medical professionals embrace and use technology daily, the quicker the transition and the more efficient the technology will be. However, the workload of today’s nursing professionals curtails the time they have available. The complexity of full-spectrum technology implementation requires extensive training and outstanding leadership.
Balancing tech use with people-to-people interaction
Medical technology has produced many advantages for nursing staff and patients. It has seen patient outcomes improve for the most part; however, adequate ongoing training is a must. Nurse educators must provide extensive training and healthcare facilities must put a stellar supervision and support system in place. Also read CVS MyChart login.
Technology developers must bear in mind that technology tools must serve staff and enhance in-person care rather than reduce it. If the devices become too complex and laborious, nursing care will deteriorate, leaving patients wanting. The technology will likely take a long time to integrate seamlessly into everyday nursing care and produce the full spectrum of benefits for optimum patient outcomes.