Nurses must routinely deliver high-quality patient-centered care, often under time constraints or with a patient in distress. As staffing shortages increase and nurse-to-patient ratios grow, nurses must assume more responsibility, negatively affecting the efficient delivery of care.
Although medical technologies are not a complete solution to these problems, they offer nurses a support system that improves patient care. From streamlining communication to reducing avoidable harm incidents, here are four medical technologies that are transforming nursing:
1. Mobile Workstations
Nursing is an on-the-go profession. However, while healthcare providers have used portable monitors and carts for decades, the latest generation of mobile workstations maximizes functionality and flexibility for an increasingly fast-paced environment. “These machines mobilize equipment, medicines and health records for nurses to access at the patient’s bedside,” notes HealthTech. “And the new carts are lightweight, economic and more easily maneuverable.”
Well-stocked mobile workstations streamline workflows, allowing nurses to move more seamlessly between patients and tasks. In addition, nurses can document in real-time at the patient’s bedside, which substantially benefits documentation accuracy and ensures data is readily available to all healthcare providers.
2. Predictive Analytics and Artificial Intelligence
Artificial intelligence (AI) is expanding the realm of possibility in healthcare. It is not affected by fatigue or overwhelm and remains objective, even in dire circumstances. Its predictive analytics capabilities scour real-time data and identify trends. AI-based software, like PeraTrend, “scans data from patients’ medical records to monitor small changes in their condition to spot early signs of the life-threatening complication,” notes LinkedIn News.
According to a September 2019 article in Nursing Management, AI is most effective when nurses “learn how to integrate AI results into evidence-based practice while balancing that information with wisdom gained through nursing experience.” Finding this balance is crucial and an essential learning outcome for graduates of the online Registered Nurse (RN) to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program at Texas A&M University International (TAMIU).
3. Telehealth and Remote Patient Monitoring
The pandemic has underscored the importance of remaining connected to patients when in-person visits are not feasible. The widespread use of smartphones means nurses have more ways to stay in touch and gather relevant information. Helpful telehealth systems include phone and video calls, emails, texts, patient portals and mobile apps. Wearable devices, like fitness trackers and continuous glucose monitors, upload vitals directly to a mobile app for review by a nurse or physician.
Remote monitoring collects a bevy of data across time instead of the small snapshot obtained during a brief face-to-face appointment. This type of close monitoring detects changes in a patient’s condition earlier, meaning providers can adjust patients’ treatment plans accordingly — sometimes daily or even hourly.
4. Centralized Command Centers
Hospitals frequently struggle with capacity issues given the COVID-19 pandemic and an older population that requires more healthcare services. As a result, more facilities are adopting centralized command centers to manage beds and incoming transfers and decrease the wait times during transitions in care. This software-enabled technology uses AI’s predictive analytics to create a central data repository to coordinate care across departments and facilities within a hospital system.
“Custom-built dashboards help align scheduling and screenings and enable nurses to prioritize care and treat the sickest patients first,” notes HealthTech. Command centers may also include plan of care, discharge and post-acute care information so that nurses improve their management of all aspects of patient care.
Medical technologies have certainly evolved and are likely to become an even more significant complement to nursing care, streamline processes and benefit nurses’ well-being. Graduates of TAMIU’s online RN to BSN program learn to assess “the impact of evolving technological, socioeconomic, political and demographic changes on nursing practice and health care systems.” Nurses who adapt to emerging software and platforms can improve communication with patients and colleagues, streamline workflows and enhance patient safety.