Advancements in technology tend to change the landscape of the healthcare profession, simultaneously simplifying tasks that were once difficult and time consuming while freeing up nurses and doctors to turn their attention in directions that were previously ignored.
If one were to take a look at the average nurse in, let’s say, 1997, and compare the daily workload to an average nurse in 1997 some stark differences would be obvious. Our automated, data-rich world of digital connectivity would stand out in sharp contrast against the analog, everything-by-hand “dark ages” of ’90s healthcare.
University students and BSNs who’ve decided to pursue a Master of Science in Nursing degree are entering a world imbued with advanced technology ranging from cloud-accessible portable medical devices to Electronic Health Records (EHRs), improved alarm systems, and data analytics.
The New, Portable Healthcare
A quick glance at the world around us reveals an entire population permanently attached to their smartphones, and the healthcare industry is no different. Nurses now incorporate their mobile devices and work laptops into their daily routine.
With these devices, nurses can reference valuable information about their patients’ symptoms, diagnoses, and prognoses. Helpful articles, videos, and interactive sites, along with the peer advice available through the healthcare blogosphere, are all available to nurses and doctors on their mobile devices at their patients’ bedsides.
Mobile devices can also be used to enhance patient engagement. In her article, “How Patient Engagement Technology Improves Nursing Workflow,” Patient Engagement HIT blog editor Sara Heath defines engagement as patient portals, messaging tools, medication and symptom management tools, and distraction therapy tools.
“Going forward, it will be important for healthcare organizations to ensure they properly support nurses in adopting patient engagement technologies,” Heath says.
The Evolution Of Health Records
Not too long ago, healthcare providers kept patient records on file, literally, in massive filing cabinets organized alphabetically in hanging folders. If a patient needed an X-ray, someone would have to physically retrieve the patient’s medical record and hand deliver it to the radiologist.
Today, EHRs keep patient records in digital databases connected to a remote-accessible server. With patient records in the cloud, doctors, nurses, specialists, and laboratories can keep track of exactly what is happening to their patient at all times, and they can post new information instantaneously without fear of it being lost between their office and the records department.
Most hospitals and private care facilities use EHRs now, but some still have not updated their record-keeping procedures. “As more hospitals begin to implement EHRs, experts predict that there will likely be fewer medical errors, an increase in quality care and satisfaction, and an overall increase in accuracy,” explains nursing authority Melissa Wirkus in her AmericanMobile.com blog post, “A Look At New Nursing Technologies And Trends.”
Better Alarms, Better Telemedicine
Nurses and their support staff are responsible for monitoring patient progress, watching vital signs for irregularities, and overseeing patient recovery. Over the years, many of these processes have been automated and fed into a nurses’ station for easier and more constant observation.
An unfortunate result of the constant monitoring was an alarm system that seemed to be constantly triggered by some warning or another all the time. Nurses began to suffer from alarm fatigue. Machines that constantly signal an alarm detract from more important nursing duties, especially in a critical care unit or emergency room.
Improvements to motion detection, instrument sensitivity, GPS tracking, and wireless networking have even allowed for tele-ICUs in some places, which make intensive care more comfortable for patients and easier for nurses to oversee.
“Benefits of tele-ICUs for nurses include increased efficacy in monitoring trends in vital signs, detecting unstable physiological status, providing medical management, enhancing patient safety, detecting arrhythmias, and preventing falls,” claims DiversityNursing.com blogger Pat Magrath in “How Has Nursing Changed In The Past Decade?”
Big Data Comes To Healthcare
Internet of Things (IoT) technology is especially advantageous to the healthcare industry. Wearable devices track heart rate, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels, and can trigger fall alerts. Handheld medical devices in hospitals and medical clinics transmit data wirelessly to servers, where algorithms analyze the data and extract useful insights for doctors and nurses.
Data analytics is transforming the entire world, but the data itself has been accumulating for several years. Almost every type of modern healthcare device already collects data and stores it on a local or cloud server. That data is already being used to improve alarm systems and better track patient health and recovery.
“If computers collect data on patient illnesses, treatments, and outcomes, one automatically obtains valuable information on the effectiveness of those treatments,” explains healthcare researcher Harold Thimbleby in his National Center for Biotechnology Information journal entry, “Technology And The Future Of Healthcare.”
Duquesne University’s Online Master Of Science In Nursing Program
The online MSN program at Duquesne University is fully accredited by CCNE and offers MSN concentrations in family (individual across the lifespan) nurse practitioner, forensic nursing, and nursing education. Duquesne’s faculty of nurse educators delivers a quality nursing education that can prepare students to sit for required credentialing exams and for the real-world challenges they will encounter as an MSN. Contact Duquesne University to learn more.