How Does Technology Enhance and Inform Nursing Care?

The influence of technology in healthcare is constantly changing how nurses care for patients. It can help to make our medical teams more accurate in their diagnosis, more efficient in their practice and faster in their treatment. In future, the healthcare system is likely to take the form of a partnership, with clinicians and technology working together to prioritize the patient experience and hasten recovery times. As digital innovations make information more accessible and sharable, technology will also work to engage patients with their treatment and create a more balanced relationship between nurse and patient.

Preparing the next generation of nurses  

These applications are often rolled out gradually, as nurses must first learn how to use devices and incorporate them into their work. However, the future workforce will join the US healthcare system with a deep understanding of the opportunities made available through technology. To ensure students are competent in its use and ready to adopt it positively, universities have been keen to incorporate technology into their curriculums. It plays a key role in RN training, but also informs how more senior nurses are educated. Practitioners who want to gain family nurse practitioner skills should consider the Online Master Of Science In Nursing–Family Nurse Practitioner at Rockhurst University. The course offers a flexible option for working nurses who hope to take their career to the next level and students can aim to graduate after two years.

Improving workflow efficiency

Across the healthcare industry, medical professionals are under pressure to improve the efficiency of their workflows. This ensures care for very ill patients is coordinated, staff are available for each ward and beds can be filled swiftly. Technology can support nurses in several ways, primarily; its benefits are recognized in the transfer of quality information. With a digital solution, this process can become very simple, as it involves often several professionals in different departments trying to agree on the care for one patient. Errors and misunderstandings can happen during numerous transition points; these include messages being lost, scans being duplicated and test results going to the wrong place. This is inefficient but also means patient care can be delayed.

Crucial data in the palm of a nurse’s hand

Digital solutions, such as apps that can be downloaded onto tablets and used by staff, or software with a user-friendly interface, optimize the process of sharing data. They can also positively impact the management of data, such as medical histories and patient records. Instead of writing on sheets of paper, which are easy to lose or damage, nurses simply type up notes in a digital format. Without the hastily scribbled notes of a colleague to decipher, nurses can work more quickly to understand a patient’s experiences and elevate their care. Furthermore, integrated digital records make it easier for patients to be admitted and discharged with an appropriate care plan.

Sharing patient information across teams

Digital records also ease the burden of finding information from a different location. Hospitals can choose to store their patient’s details on a cloud-based system or a network, so retrieving notes or results and recording data is simplified. They can add treatment updates, search for important information, such as allergies, and keep track of reoccurring issues, such as readmissions, in a few clicks. Moreover, nurse managers can make use of a digital portal to manage the shift patterns of their unit and keep track of staffing levels in seconds. This makes dealing with scheduling, absences and last-minute changes less of a time-consuming task.

Creating a better medical environment for patient care

By managing the patient experience more efficiently, nurses have extra time to focus on practical care tasks. Additionally, by optimizing the treatment provided, and ensuring records are updated, people are more likely to be discharged with the resources they need. As a result, readmission rates are reduced.

Mining for information with artificial intelligence

Combined with machine learning, AI is an extremely powerful tool that’s designed to improve patient outcomes. Nurses can use it to gain insights into an individual patient or groups of patients, and then design the best treatment plan for their condition. It can also help medical researchers develop more effective drugs, so nurses can prescribe better treatment plans and help with the diagnosis of diseases.

Reducing the impact of staff shortages

These applications are especially valuable at a time when hospitals are under strain. The additional workload comes from a growth in the volume of patients, coupled with a national shortage of medical professionals. Using AI to manage these issues provides patients with a better experience, takes the pressure off the medical team and makes healthcare delivery more cost-efficient. AI works by processing data that’s harvested from multiple sources, this includes research programs, digitized patient notes and medical imaging. The software integrates this information and looks for patterns and links between the separate elements. Once they have the results, it’s easier for nurses to compare patient outcomes and analyze their medical histories to search for common denominators. This helps nurses to identify how diseases progress and to understand more about health risks that lead to certain conditions.

Integrating wearables into a patient’s healthcare journey

AI also plays a part in the group of technologies that come under the umbrella term “wearables”. These devices can be worn on a patient’s wrist, like a watch or on the arm, or used as required in the home. The gathered data could include a person’s weight, blood pressure or sugar level. Once this information is transmitted to the nurse who is in charge of the patient’s care, it can help to identify how a condition is progressing or how a new medication is working. It can flag up the need for additional care, or provide reassurance that the current plan is functioning well.

Encouraging compliance and self-care

Patients who keep track of their health using biosensors can feel confident in providing their nurse with accurate information, without having to leave home. This is ideal for people who are living with a chronic illness and have problems with their mobility or simply do not want to risk catching an infection during an in-person visit. As wearables encourage patients to monitor their progress, they can also play a role in compliance and ensuring people take their medications on time. Finally, nurses who give their patients access to wearables can help to lower the anxiety of living with a chronic health condition. Patients can see their health data, so they understand when they are doing well and when they need help. As a result, they can get the care they need promptly.

Managing chronic disease through virtual and telehealth care

Telehealth is another technology that nurses use in the community and hospitals. It is a useful tool in supporting patients with long-term conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Patients who participate in telehealth appointments can do so over the phone or using a camera on a tablet or phone. They have a scheduled appointment with their nurse, who also has access to their medical history and can make informed decisions or give advice.

Reducing the length of hospital stays

As a result, the patient’s symptoms can be managed, and they can even receive treatment without an in-person meeting because in many states nurse practitioners can prescribe medication. Patients who are allowed to self-manage their condition are less reliant on primary health services, such as the ER department and are less likely to need an extended hospital stay because their condition worsened unexpectedly.

Efficient testing with point-of-care technology

Point-of-care technology uses mobile computing devices, such as tablets, to update records, carry out tests and create a treatment schedule by the bedside. It is an instant form of nursing that can reduce errors, as the entire process is free from distractions. Additionally, it makes patients feel like their care is being addressed instantly, which means they are happier after their experience at the hospital or with an individual nurse.

Testing often includes pregnancy tests, strep tests and blood glucose monitoring, many of which have a turnaround of under fifteen minutes. This real-time testing is helpful in detecting an issue and ensures that appropriate care is provided without any delays. With a treatment plan in place, patients are less likely to experience complications, they have swifter access to screening tests when required and their stay in hospital can be minimized.

Aiding in diagnosis and treatment  

Point-of-care results are available immediately, so nurses do not have to send a patient elsewhere for testing or wait for the results. This means the decisions they make can be incredibly quick, but also reliably accurate because they are informed by technology. Furthermore, a patient’s results can be added to the hospital or clinic’s network immediately to ensure their long-term care is more efficient and their documentation is organized safely in one place.

Electronic lift systems give patients more freedom

Nursing technology tends to focus on the smooth sharing of information and data processing. However, lifts are a more practical innovation. Caring for a patient who cannot walk or has mobility limitations presents several challenges, both for the person involved and their nurses. Tasks such as toileting, washing and dressing can be very difficult to accomplish without patient transfer technology. Lifts can make a patient feel secure whilst they are being moved, they protect the person’s body at a potentially vulnerable point and speed up transfers, so less time is spent between moves. As the process involves very little manual effort, nurses can help patients get into a position that they are comfortable with after each transfer. Moreover, patients can enjoy a greater degree of freedom, as they can move into a wheelchair for outside visits and feel confident in an easy move back once they return.

Smartbeds send data directly to a patient’s nurse

Lifts can be combined with smartbeds integrated with electronic patient records, to streamline the care people receive. These beds are fitted with advanced sensors that can record variable data, such as how long a patient has slept, their weight and their movements. The data is transferred to a nurse’s tablet, so they can monitor and evaluate the care being provided. As a result, nurses spend less time taking readings and completing administrative tasks and more time delivering care at the bedside.

Real-time patient updates with digital monitors

Even when nurses cannot be present at a patient’s bedside, they can monitor their vital signs with an electric monitor. The tools are placed next to the bed, or built into it, to carry out automatic tests, then record the results and send them to a professional. Pulse rate, respiratory rate and oxygen levels can all be monitored through sensors placed on a patient’s body using sticky pads or clips. The device picks up the metrics it is asked to read and then displays the result on a screen that a nurse can read. Nurses use this information to analyze the patient’s health, but also to determine whether a medication is working or is fit enough for surgery. This technology is also invaluable in emergency rooms, where it delivers a feed that monitors patients who have sustained an injury or are experiencing heart failure.

Flagging a problem before it escalates

On a ward, these monitors will alert a nurse when a patient is struggling and needs help or when their vital signs reach a certain point. Nurses will use the temperature feature to consider whether a patient has an infection and the oxygen monitor to diagnose respiratory distress. Bedside monitors act as the eyes and ears of a busy nurse who is caring for many patients. They prevent problems from worsening and give people a better chance of surviving a medical incident by ensuring help arrives.

Efficient care delivery with automated IV pumps

Automated IV pumps can enhance the quality of care for patients in any ward, but they are especially useful in acute care environments. They offer a precise and convenient method of measuring medication or nutrition and dispensing it in the right dose, at an appropriate time. Setting up the pump, placing the IV needle and maintaining the process is very time-consuming for nurses who do it manually. It can also be distressing for the patient who may need to be woken up before a new bag is attached.

Automatic pumps let nurses monitor the entire process, down to the drip rate and the intervals that the liquid is delivered. This reduces the need for nurses to constantly monitor the patient and it frees them up to observe and take notes, which may contribute to a change in treatment. Moreover, as pumps detect unusual changes in the IV flow, any problems are quickly relayed to nurses in the form of an alert. This leads to a better quality of care and improved outcomes overall.

Digital signage enhances communication between patients and their care provider

Digital signage may not be the first technological advancement that springs to mind regarding patient care, but it meets an important need. In hospitals and nurse’s offices, patients can often feel stressed and unsure. They could have concerns about how to get to a certain department, whether they are in the right place when they do and what time their appointment will be. To nurture a more welcoming atmosphere, medical professionals can use digital signs. These large monitors provide clear information presented in an accessible format. They can alternate between languages to suit the patient demographic and be updated in real-time, so any important information is immediately available.

Reassuring and guiding patients during their visit

As well as showing people how to get to their destination, they can check people in and take a few details to prevent large queues from forming. This frees up hospital workers but also provides valuable updates for patients. Waiting for an appointment is always nerve-wracking, especially in a busy patient room. Digital signage can make the experience less stressful by displaying the overall wait time for each nurse and the rooms they are using. These screens can also provide a welcome distraction by displaying health information, safety announcements or general wellness tips encouraging patients to lead healthier lifestyles.

Shaping and advancing the healthcare system

Technology has changed and will continue to change the way nurses help and treat patients. As these innovations grow in scope and usefulness, healthcare will continue to evolve and offer improved patient outcomes. From small handheld devices to remote appointments and powerful learning machines, technology can benefit any aspect of modern medical care, and today’s nurses are prepared for it.

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