Technology can create a better work environment in nursing care when it improves the efficiency, the safety and the quality of care. In 2008, the California HealthCare Foundation published a report where eight new technologies used in hospitals in the United States were described. The report highlights different problems faced by inpatient nurses in their daily activities and how these innovations have helped creating a better and safer environment. Three of the eight technologies described in the report can help improving patient safety and quality of care: workflow management systems, wireless patient monitoring and electronic medication administration with bar coding.
Workflow Management Systems
Locating information such as checking the status of a bed or laboratory results can be a challenge for busy nurses. If there is disorganization in the coordination of resources, frequent delays and inefficiencies may happen. Workflow management systems are tools that collect information from multiple sources and integrate it to have all the necessary information regarding patient and bed management available in a single display. This solution can help the nurse figure out rapidly which patients are at risk to fall, have language barrier or need special measures because of conditions such as chronic heart failure, pneumonia or acute myocardial infarction. However, in order to use the new technology properly and avoid data-entry errors, it is important to have a new system that is user friendly and intuitive.
Wireless Patient Monitoring
Other safety issues that healthcare professionals have to face are related to patient falls and complications in patient conditions. Patient falls is very common in hospitals and can lead to severe injuries and increase the risk of premature death. In some general medical units, it is not possible to have all the patients connected to monitoring equipment and it may not be possible to respond rapidly when the condition of the patient starts to deteriorate. To prevent falls, it is now possible to integrate sensor technology into the bed which will feature information such as weight, blood pressure, heart rate or even body movement during sleep. The sensor can be connected with a communication system and alert the nurse when a patient is at risk of falling or when its heart or respiratory rate strays outside of normal limit. But with the growing number of wireless devices used in hospitals, it is also necessary to find a way to avoid interferences.
Electronic Medication Administration with Bar Coding
Finally, one of the most common adverse events is related to medication error. As medication management involves different departments and professionals, errors can occur at any step, including when the nurse has to administer medication. With an electronic administration record (eMAR) used with a bar code reading technology, the medication administration process is recorded from the moment the physician writes the order to the moment the nurse administrates the medication to the patient. If at some point of the process an error occurs, a warning message will appear, preventing the nurse or the physician from administrating the wrong medication. Unfortunately, technology can not prevent everything and if an error in ordering medication occured at the beginning of the process, the system will not be able to detect it.
The report is available online, for more information:
Equipped for Efficiency: Improving Nursing Care Through Technology
|Introduction text by :||Pauline Boinot, M.Sc.|
Turisco F., Rhoads J., (2008) Equipped for Efficiency: Improving Nursing Care Through Technology, California HelathCare Foundation