This post, by Senior Fellow Liz Seegert, was originally published on July 10, 2012 on TheAtlantic.com, presented by Capella University. It is reposted here with their permission.
There’s no doubt that technology is revolutionizing health care. Nowhere is this more true than in the field of nursing
From telemedicine to smart beds, nurses are at the forefront of managing high-tech health care solutions. The right technology can help nurses deliver more efficient, safer and higher-quality patient care.
Changing for the Better
“Telemedicine and tele-monitoring are commonplace now,” said Patricia Spencer, RN, BSN, MBA, former director of dialysis services at South Nassau Community Hospital in Oceanside, N.Y. “Care coordination is done electronically, allowing patients to remain at home. We check on patients virtually, and remotely retrieve vitals such as glucose levels, or heart rate.”
Electronic Medical Records (EMR) are another example of how technology benefits nursing care. Hospitals and other providers are rapidly transitioning to computer-based patient files, and developing methods to share key data. EMRs allow nurses to immediately access important patient information like prior health history, medications, lab reports and co-existing medical conditions – whether care was provided at the current facility or another location. This provides a more complete and accurate clinical picture, ensuring that the patient receives the appropriate care for his or her condition.
Having a patient’s health information in one central record also saves the time it takes to locate and review various paper files, which may be scattered throughout a facility or among several providers. “Not only can we easily document care… we could immediately retrieve test results and adjust dosing as needed,” Ms. Spencer noted.
There’s an App for That
Nursing-specific smartphone apps are continually being introduced. In a recent study, 71 percent of nurses said they already use apps to enhance their work. Smartphone apps allow nurses to access and transmit more accurate data, conduct quick consults, or check clinical guidelines on the fly – with just the tap of a finger.
Mobile medical apps like MedScape and Skyscape keep nurses current on the latest research studies, drug guides, dosing requirements, safety information and other important data. This allows faster and more targeted responses to patient needs. With hundreds of apps available, nurses can likely find the right one for their particular needs.
Learning and Using New Skills
Robots and miniature cameras now help guide many procedures that call for extreme accuracy. Whether it’s a simple colonoscopy or major heart surgery, nurses are at the forefront of managing this technology in diagnosis, procedures, and post-operative care.
In its 2010 report, “The Future of Nursing,” the Institute of Medicine (IOM) highlighted the need for nurses to gain proficiency in emerging technologies to meet the new demands of patient care: “Nurses are being called on to coordinate care among a variety of clinicians and community agencies; to help patients manage chronic illnesses, thereby preventing acute care episodes and disease progression; and to use a variety of technological tools to improve the quality and effectiveness of care. A more educated nursing workforce would be better equipped to meet the demands of an evolving health care system.”
Whether or not they come from a high-tech background, nurses are learning these crucial skills on the job.
“Even nurses who were not trained during the digital age have become more tech savvy,” Ms. Spencer said.
Health technology continues to evolve along with our health system. Increasingly complex care means nurses are becoming increasingly adept at using technology to address current and future patient care requirements. As the IOM noted, 21st century nursing demands 21st century approaches to meet the care needs of the population.