Technology and Nursing: How the Two are Connected in Modern Healthcare Today
Given how closely nursing is linked to and improving with technological innovations, it is worth looking at some specific examples of how modern breakthroughs have impacted the profession in recent years. By identifying prominent examples of how technology makes healthcare provision more effective, we should also be able to gain clearer insight as to what lies in the path ahead.
IV Pumps with Automation Capabilities
Automation is not just limited to industrial machines and productivity software – a fact that was proven after the introduction of automated IV pumps.
An essential part of the job for nurses often involves IV pump management, and getting that part right can at times be absolutely critical to patient care. Automated IV pumps solved a number of concerns in regard to this, by aiding both patient recovery and nursing efficiency. Going through the following should make it easy to understand the kind of effects this invention has had on patient care:
- A combination of the special pumps and software that control them makes IV management more accurate and convenient
- Patients do not have to wait, as nurses can automate the entire process in advance
- Doses and drips are auto-regulated to never go past or stay below the preset critical levels
- Automated pumps do not “forget” to make the necessary medication changes at the exact time
- Advanced machine learning enables for emergency protocol programmings as well
- Automating such vital but mundane steps frees up nurses so that they can spend their time more productively elsewhere
- The human error factor is eliminated from IV management without affecting the human supervision factor
Smart beds are fast becoming the standard for top hospitals in major cities. Just as the name suggests, these are hospital beds with monitors that are capable of constantly tracking patient vitals in real-time.
More impressively, the smart bed, in combination with the associated monitoring software, can help nurses stay aware of the patients’ movements on it, without actually being in the same room. Creating a patient chart has now become much less time consuming and error-free in hospitals with smart beds in them.
The beds also have the potential to prevent falls via an in-built warning system, which alerts both the patients and the nurses if a fall seems probable, or if someone has already fallen off the bed. Even doctors have found that smart beds and the data which they provide are often effective in identifying underlying conditions.
The smart bed and the automated IV pump are just a few of the many other smart devices connected to central hubs at the nursing station. It’s a place where all of the separate pieces of technology are unified to provide a centralized feed via IoT.
Consider the software-hardware integration and unification to be similar to how a central security station gets feeds from all cameras within a facility for easy monitoring. Only in place of cameras, it’s the various sensors and associated critical patient data which are updated continuously at the nursing station dashboard. As a result, nurses are always aware of emergencies, potential emergencies, new developments, etc. without having to check up on every patient manually.
The number of direct healthcare workers, particularly that of nurses and doctors, is alarmingly low in the US today, with the gap between demand and supply predicted to widen even further to crisis levels in about 10 – 15 years’ time.
Internet-based education is one of our biggest hopes towards keeping this growing demand for healthcare workers from spiraling out of control in the coming years. In fact, online FNP programs go beyond just solving the deficit for nursing leaders, since qualified family nurse practitioners can even act autonomously in a large number of US states. The earning prospects of FNPs are among the highest in the nursing profession as a whole, but the critical roles which they play in small communities are more important than anything else.
In rural America online FNP programs are equipping experienced nurses with the knowledge and education to take up leadership roles in the local medical communities to meet the deficits where they are truly apparent.
Furthermore, the online nature of these courses ensures that anyone in the current nursing workforce does not have to take leave either, which could have been another serious shortage to deal with for the healthcare industry today.
Wearables have brought mobility to technology which was already there, but that mobility has been nothing short of groundbreaking.
- Wearables can now be used by nurses to monitor their patients’ pulse rate, blood pressure and other vitals in real-time
- Patients can themselves be more independent and monitor their own vitals
- It provides the freedom of movement to stable patients that still require constant monitoring
- They gather patient information at all times of the day, making comprehensive data more useful for treatments
- Wearables can, at times, even predict heart attacks by noting changes in blood pressure and pulse rate
- They can alert emergency services if the patient is facing a medical emergency at home
Easy Accessibility to Electronic Health Records (EHR)
EHR systems have been in place since the 1970s, but whereas in earlier decades, EHR was only equipped to handle a few types of patient data, today, it is the primary medium for recording, maintaining, updating and securing health records.
Authorized personnel and the patients themselves can now access the necessary health records from literally any connected section of the world. This has obviously added a whole new dimension to electronic health record-keeping, which benefits both patients and nurses alike. These include:
- Patients can use their health records to get the right treatment in any part of the nation, or even internationally
- Doctors and nurses around the country can keep health records updated in real-time
- Implementation and maintenance of HIPAA regulations is now more assured with encryption and blockchain technology
- Analysis of a patient’s EHR is now possible to detect and predict health concerns
Introduction of the Robotic Patient
There have long been a few key issues with training new nurses, some of which are highlighted below:
- Not enough training programs are available to fill the existing gap
- As a result, nursing schools have to reject thousands of nursing applications, just because they don’t have the facilities to train them all
- The first few times while performing procedures are always a bit of a gamble with the patient’s safety
- In spite of excellent higher education opportunities, online education alone cannot train a new nurse
The introduction of advanced, robotic patients, however, can solve a number of these problems. Florida, in particular, has seen huge success by dividing the need for training (50 – 50) between robotic and human patients. Take a look at the following to know how wider adoption of this technology could indeed be the answer to training new nurses at a much higher number every year:
- Practicing on life-like robots helps nurses to be more adept with a real patient, even on their first try
- The simulations have no repercussions, so nurses can practice on these until the time they are ready
- Unlike how it is with real patients, any procedure can be simulated at will for nursing students to master them all
- Even experienced nurses can get acquainted with new techniques, or practice old ones to stay in touch
- Given that the same robot can be used numerous times, facilities can use them to train nurses at much greater volume and speed every year
The use of technology in nursing and healthcare, in general, is now so common that we hardly ever notice it. Nonetheless, technological innovation in nursing is a constantly evolving concept that will continue to make progress steadily. What remains to be seen is how much of that change will be brought on by new innovations, and how much of it will just be further refinement of what’s already here. Either way, the future of nursing as a profession feels bright from all angles, albeit demanding.