Advances in technology are impacting the way that most people do their jobs – and nursing is certainly no different. With innovations in medical devices and software, technological improvements are literally changing the way that nurses practice, including everything from how they deliver care to patients to how they manage clinical workflows.
Nursing technology includes an array of devices, systems and software designed to reduce the amount of time nurses must spend on tasks such as tracking down equipment, locating and collaborating with other staff members and updating patient charts. Other technology serves to improve accuracy and patient safety by reducing medical errors and preventing unauthorized people from entering a facility or accessing sensitive patient records. In addition to improved accuracy, efficiency and safety, technology also allows nurses to spend more time on direct patient care.
Some of the newer technological advances include real time locating systems (RTLS). These systems typically use radiofrequency identification tags, ultrasound, or infrared technology to tag and track medical equipment. Sometimes referred to as RFID devices, they can be used for tasks such as locating the nearest wheelchair or blood pressure machine, centrally monitoring equipment maintenance cycles and streamlining patient flow and bed management.
In the same manner, patient locations can also be monitored, which can help improve response times, admitting and discharge processes and workflow between other departments such as laboratory services, physical therapy and environmental services. This can also assist nurses in mental health or neurology wards where patients can sometimes wander away from their rooms and into other patient rooms or restricted areas.
Other devices include tablet computers and mobile charts. Traditionally, nurses spent a significant portion of their shift walking back and forth between patient rooms, medication areas and the nursing station, or looking for equipment and supplies. Mobile devices reduce the amount of time nurses spend walking, which can be redirected towards better patient care. In addition, nurses can access patients’ records and test results from their bedside as well as clinical resources and guidelines to assist with patient care.
Electronic health record (EHR) systems are rapidly becoming the gold standard in healthcare settings, replacing outdated paper records. In addition to providing instant access to patient medical histories and records, EHRs can also improve coordination between all members of a patient’s care team, alert caregivers to potential prescription drug interactions and flag test results and other items for follow-up.
Many see technology as a key component to improving patient care and outcomes with features such as sensors, mobile and tablet technology and instant alerts to changes in patient status. Ultimately, this technology will improve response times, increase accuracy and ensure safety. In addition to helping patients, technology can also help nurses and other clinical staff improve communication and introduce greater efficiencies in clinical workflow which frees up nurses and other staff to spend more time concentrating on delivering the best possible patient care.