By Brianna Zink, RN, MSN, account manager, Infor Workforce Management for Healthcare.
When we look at the healthcare industry over the past 15-20 years, it is clear that drastic improvements have been made because of technology. For example, neurologists can now assess patients experiencing symptoms of a stroke remotely, using a specialized computer system. Wearable devices can track a patient’s vital signs and heart rhythm, alerting both the patient and their care team should any warning signs appear.
Furthermore, technology deployed throughout hospitals and healthcare systems has steadily improved the efficiency of caregivers and allowed patients to return home following an illness, injury, or surgery quicker than ever. Technology has also improved many ways healthcare providers work. These include a broad spectrum of activities, such as the ability to access a schedule, make changes from a mobile device, ensure appropriate supplies are where they need to be and determine when they are needed in order to provide the best possible patient care.
However, from a nurses’ perspective, there has been both a variety of successes and failures using technology in healthcare. Traditionally, everything from documenting patient care, to creating staff schedules, to ordering supplies was done on paper. On the other hand, some hospitals take a much more digitized approach, where every task performed seems to require the assistance of a computer and everything feels much faster paced.
At first glance, the hospitals that adopt all kinds of technology seem to make many improvements in patient care. Overall, it seems that patients have their needs tended to much quicker as a result of the technology solutions. For example, rather than someone tracking down a patient’s nurse when the patient needed assistance, the nurses could easily be reached by a phone that was always clipped to their waistband. The electronic medical record would automatically alert the caregivers if a medication was due, or if the patient had abnormal lab results or vital signs. The daunting task of filling out supply checklists so any supplies that were recently re-ordered had disappeared were no longer a time waster and the changes were amazing.
Furthermore, while working at the bedside, nurses spend very little time thinking about how this technology truly impacted the patients. At first, it made everything seem quicker and easier. Healthcare providers can handle a heavier patient load with the use of these technologies.
However, many fail to truly consider how “quicker and easier” might come across to the patients receiving the care. For instance, an elderly patient may be astonished at how quickly the staff moved and the electronics that are constantly being used. After nurses and physicians converse with the patient about their health, they may be incredibly confused because with deteriorating hearing, they could not hear nor understand the information over the typical noises in a hospital. As soon as the staff left the patient’s side, they may have tons of unanswered questions. They may even completely fail to listen because it seems like the care providers are talking to their computers or on their phone, rather than actually speaking to them.
The internet has also had an impact on the patient-provider relationship and healthcare professionals and centers need to take steps to ensure that this relationship is maintained. Additionally, the internet has allowed patients to easily research their symptoms, medications, diagnosis and treatment options, providing them with more knowledge than ever before. Rather than being frustrated when a patient has researched their concerns online, providers need to be able to collaborate with the patient to agree together on the best plan of care. Providers still need to be aware of their bedside manner and ensure they are spending time listening to their patients, without burying themselves behind a computer screen.
Ensuring staff are adequately trained in the use of various types of technology available to them is the responsibility of both the hospital and the staff. As quickly as technology is advancing the field of healthcare, health systems and staff need to ensure they are ultimately responsible for keeping up with changes and providing the best care possible to their patients.