Many people envision nursing to be interacting with patients and reading paper charts with information and medical needs. Modern healthcare has largely done away with traditional record-keeping, however, with technology making it easier to provide safe care. This article will explore new technologies in nursing as well as how they impact nursing professionals daily.
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Why is digital healthcare important?
Before we dive into the ways that nurses use technology, particularly telemedicine, and the way technology impacts their jobs, let’s take a look at some of the challenges that currently face modern healthcare. These challenges dictate why some technologies are being implemented in healthcare as well as explaining what the future of the field looks like.
The United States spends more on healthcare than any other place in the world, with roughly $200 billion spent on COVID-19 healthcare alone. Total healthcare spending in the US surpassed $4 trillion in 2021. That is just about twice what the next highest spender, Germany, dedicates to their healthcare initiatives. This translates to almost $13,000 per capita in the United States as compared to $8,000 per capita in Germany.
Despite the staggering amount of money the US dedicates to health, health outcomes tend to be lower than in other countries. There are a few reasons for this, but one of the biggest is the burnout that many healthcare professionals, including nurses, are experiencing. As the shortage of physicians and nurses in the industry continues to grow, the burden placed on existing physicians and nurses becomes heavier. This often leads to patient care that is below the ideal, causing some professionals to leave the field altogether. While nursing education is adapting to become easier to complete in order to facilitate industry growth, the challenges faced by current nurses should not be underestimated.
So, how do we help nurses with the reality of modern healthcare and buy them as much time as possible to spend with each patient? One way is to make their work as efficient as possible without sacrificing high standards of patient care, by using advanced nursing tools. Established colleges such as Spring Arbor University are doing everything they can with their curriculum to provide students with the knowledge they need to use these tools and thrive in the healthcare industry, as well as giving them a comprehensive nursing education that sets students up for a successful career. There are a number of ways technology is being used to achieve greater efficiency, including the implementation of telemedicine and digital healthcare settings.
Digital healthcare settings are the digital spaces in which nurses do their work and treat patients, and many technologies help strengthen that space and make it as accurate and easy to use as possible. Some of the most important digital technologies are explored in detail below.
Digital healthcare technology
Digital healthcare is making the industry safer and more effective for patients as well as a little less demanding for nurses. Some tools are used only to tweak the way nurses have traditionally done their jobs, whereas some play a huge role in actively streamlining the way care is provided. Here are some of the most effective tools in the industry.
Computerized provider order entry (CPOE)
Nurses are responsible for entering medical orders on computers or other connected devices, often directly in the patient’s exam room. You’ve likely seen this occur firsthand as the technology has become pervasive in recent years. This kind of data entry is known as computerized provider order entry (CPOE) and it allows nurses to find the information necessary to optimize their patient care as easily and quickly as possible.
Electronic medical records (EMRs)
Another form of technology is the electronic medical record (EMR). Similar to the above, EMRs offer an electronic version of a patient’s record. These are widely used in clinics and hospitals to ensure that patients receive the care they need without relying on physical paper charts which must be updated by hand. Nurses don’t have to spend as much time parsing and updating EMRs as they do with traditional hard copies.
At first glance, it might seem as though patient portals are only useful to patients directly, but this is not the case. While these portals do make it easier for patients to access health information, they also make nursing a little bit easier. Instead of answering calls or scheduling in-person meetings to go over test results and provide patients with hard copies of the reports, they can input the information directly into the portal.
Digital healthcare settings
The three tools above amount to a digital healthcare setting. They give nurses the tools they need to streamline their workflow digitally, allowing them to provide the care their patients need in a safe and timely manner. These enhanced internal controls reduce risk while simultaneously improving efficiency and making providing care a little bit easier for everyone involved. Digital healthcare settings are critical to providing effective care in the modern healthcare industry.
Let’s take a look at another nursing tool that has made a big difference in how nurses do their jobs.
The rise of telemedicine
In addition to the above, nurses are increasingly providing their services virtually. While telemedicine is not a new concept, it has only become widely available relatively recently. At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, before we adapted the way that physical health spaces such as doctor’s offices and clinics protect patients, in-person visits with healthcare providers were risky. Because COVID-19 was such a contagious illness and early on, we didn’t understand how to lower the risk of transmission, many people were advised to avoid seeing their care providers face-to-face. The need for treatment of non-COVID-related illnesses did not diminish, however, and it became necessary to use digital healthcare options to provide patients with the care they needed without putting them at risk of infection.
Telemedicine was initially supposed to be a temporary measure, with many professionals anticipating returning to business as usual with in-person visits when the pandemic ended. That would prove to be more difficult than anticipated, however, due to patient demands. While telemedicine was initially considered less desirable than face-to-face care, the convenience it offered meant that it quickly became the new patient expectation in the industry. This led many providers to move at least part of their practice into digital healthcare settings.
While it was not immediately embraced as a viable alternative to in-person care when first emerging in the field, telehealth has quickly become a successful and effective addition to the industry post-COVID. This posed a great number of advantages for patients and nurses alike. The technology made it possible to see more patients than they would face-to-face, expanding their reach without rushing through visits. As a result, patients receive thorough care without the hassle or risk of traveling anywhere in person while nurses can utilize tools that make accurate care easier than ever.
Nurses utilize the tools we described above as part of their telemedicine care. As you might imagine, they save nurses quite a bit of time and frustration as they streamline their responsibilities. This is only true when they understand how to use the technology quickly and efficiently, however, which means that nursing education about existing, rising, and potentially emerging technology is absolutely critical.
Nursing education and digital technology
We know that nurses can use technology in many different ways to enhance patient care and make accessing that care much easier, but how do they learn everything they need to know about digital healthcare technology? Nurses must undergo rigorous education to ensure that they know everything needed to safely treat patients. This includes information about the digital healthcare setting and the technology that makes it possible. In this section, we’ll explore the role higher education plays in preparing students for a technologically advanced future.
Using technology in training sessions
Nurses receive not only lectures on content but also hands-on experience to help them master the basics of safe patient care. Universities today are incorporating the technology nurses need to use directly into these sessions. This ensures that by the time nurses interact with patients independently, they can hit the ground running and provide effective care immediately.
Making the student experience digital
Yet another way that nursing education prepares students to use technology is by making the student experience digital to some degree. Some universities offer programs that are entirely online, while others incorporate digital elements such as online discussion or data entry into them. Using technology every day as a student makes it easier to adapt to using it every day as a nursing professional.
Technology in healthcare plays a big role, and this role will only grow in the future. Technology impacts both nurses and patients, and technological developments provide exciting solutions for the future of patient care. For a nurse looking to make a difference and positively influence patient outcomes, it’s imperative to become educated in the use of current and future technologies.