By Melissa Wirkus, associate editor
Nursing technology has transformed the way nurses work and continues to evolve, along with the roles that nurses play in today’s health care arena. According to various studies and surveys, technology in the nursing world has increased patient satisfaction and overall outcomes, reduced clinical errors and decreased the amount of paperwork that nurses were once required to perform.
The outlook for new technology in nursing remains robust, as new devices, computers and robots aim to transform the future of health care. The following technologies are just a few that have made headlines recently as they ease and streamline each nurse’s workload to help them focus on what matters most—their patients.
Accessing patient records, X-rays, medication information and even obtaining a second opinion from another health care professional, can all be done directly from the bedside thanks to new advances in point-of-care technology. Utilizing a wireless network and computer, nurses in many hospitals can now access and receive a wide array of information right from the patient’s room.
Computer and software companies are working to further advance point-of-care technology to include wireless and mobile applications that will enable nurses to have the information they need directly at their fingertips.
Electronic Health Records
Electronic Health Records (EHR) have been a hot topic lately as policymakers work towards establishing a Nationwide Healthcare Information Network (NHIN) that would standardize EHRs. Although paperless health records have been utilized for years, a new Harvard research study showed that fewer than 1 in 5 nurses are using EHRs, although computerized documentation was linked to nursing excellence and better patient outcomes.
As more hospitals began 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.
Electronic Lift Systems, Smart Beds and Computerized Staff Schedules
Many of the health care technologies we see today have been put in place to make a nurse’s everyday routine safer and more efficient. Electronic lift systems operated by remote control and other wireless technologies have greatly reduced injury and stress for both patients and nurses.
Smart beds and computerized staff scheduling systems have also improved general nursing efficiency. Smart beds, such as those developed by Hill-Rom, work in conjunction with other point-of-care technology to obtain and analyze patient information such as weight, temperature and head and neck elevation. New staff scheduling systems improve efficiency by enabling nurses to set up coverage and even schedule their shifts remotely.
Patient and Staff Identification Systems
Patient and staff identifiers in the hospital setting have become increasingly important in light of patient mix-ups and unauthorized people entering a facility or accessing patient records. Bar codes, wristbands and radio frequency identification (RFID), all work to track and identify patients in an effort to reduce errors while also keeping the hospital population safe.
New palm vein technology, eye scans and microchips have also been introduced as a way to identify both patients and healthcare professionals, and to cut down on unauthorized access to patient files.
As new technologies continue to emerge, nurses’ roles will continue to evolve, with each advance, bringing a safer and healthier future for both nurses and the patients in their care.
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