Three Ways Improved Technology Can Help Your Nurses Save Time
By Austin Winberg, MA, Director, Clinical Engagement & Outcomes, SONIFI Health
Nurses are the lifeblood of our hospitals. From assessing patients to administering medicines, nurses ensure that every aspect of the hospital’s front line runs smoothly. As a facet of the rapidly evolving healthcare industry, nursing has undergone remarkable advancements in recent years. Everything from patient care to documentation has been revolutionized by innovative equipment and technology, enabling nurses to make the most of their valuable time and efforts. Here are three ways nurses can benefit from the integration of improved technology.
Lower readmission rates
Even though readmissions may be necessary for some patients, they generally have negative consequences for both patients and hospitals. In an effort to reduce the high volume of readmissions in the United States, the Affordable Care Act established the Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program (HRRP). With HRRP imposing financial penalties on hospitals with excessive readmission rates, many hospitals are implementing various strategies to better monitor and assess patients’ health and ability to manage their condition prior to discharging them.
Below are five ways improved technology is helping to lower readmission rates.
- Case management: Risk assessment software assists nurses and doctors with determining a patient’s readiness for discharge and the appropriate level of care they’ll need after discharge. Nursing assessment tools, in particular, can automatically generate accurate case management profiles, social work and more.
- Communication: Improved health information technology is vital when it comes to reducing avoidable readmissions. Technologies like electronic health records, patient registries and risk stratification software all encourage patient engagement, but they also facilitate the communication needed to relay information on proper caregiving, accurate discharge instructions, effective follow-up care and community-based education.
- Analytics and modeling: Improved business intelligence dashboards and analytic reports are vital when it comes to helping hospitals and staff focus on decreasing readmission rates. These technologies can track and graph key performance indicators to aid nurses in creating strategic objectives and streamline best practice guidelines.
- Post-acute follow-up: To avoid readmissions, it is necessary for post-acute follow-up to occur at the right time. Improved technology, like telemedicine, can monitor patient vital signs and electronically convey the data back to the hospital or post-hospital care provider, alerting them of any abnormal result. This allows providers the opportunity to intervene and manage the patient’s condition before it worsens to the point of an Emergency Room visit or re-hospitalization.
- Health information exchange: Communication is critical both before and after a patient is discharged. Powerful information exchange infrastructures are perfecting communication throughout every level of health care to reduce the number of preventable readmissions.
Improved real-time feedback
Developing technologies, like an integrated real-time locating system (RTLS), have the capability to combine tags, hardware and software so that users can interact with accurate, up-to-date data. Not only will this help nurses work more efficiently, but it also has the capability to interconnect hospitals, clinics and other facilities and make communication more effective and accurate. RTLS databases can also benefit nurses by collecting and displaying predictive analysis based on real-time data.
Similarly, advanced monitoring technology can help give nurses real-time feedback on patients. Older monitors would sound alarms every time a patient’s vital signs drop, causing nurses to stop paperwork, consulting other nurses or doctors or assessing their patients. Though these alarms are beneficial when a patient is in dire condition, many times the alarms are triggered by accident. Thankfully new technology is making these monitoring systems more responsive to real-time signals, allowing nurses to spend more time with their parents without worrying about misfiring alarms.
Improved patient control over personal treatment
As nursing evolves, the role of the nurse has transitioned from care at the patient’s bedside, tending to patient care and needs, to a vast array of responsibilities. A 2008 study by Hendrich, et al.* observed nursing activities to dissect nurse responsibilities during a standard shift. The study found that just 19% of a nurse’s 10-hour shift was spent on patient care activities.
- 35% is spent on documentation
- 17% is spent on medication administration
- 21% is spent on care coordination
- 19% is spent on patient care
Although improved technology is aiding in the prioritization of nurses’ time and allowing them to provide more one-on-one care to patients, additional concepts emerging in health care are enabling patients to have better control over personal treatment and self-care.
Emerging patient engagement technology encourages patients to be more proactive in their own health care. Through multiple platforms, these management systems improve the patient and family health care experience. Various platforms include items like interactive televisions which, using familiar technology, give patients and families better access to a variety of educational and distraction options directly from the comfort of the patient’s hospital room. Interactive applications, which can be accessed on a tablet or mobile device, allow patients to access educational content, facility and health care information and various positive distraction options.
Patient engagement technology also decreases the amount of time nurses spend providing the type of care and assistance that patients can access on their own, such as:
- Reviewing their current care team (i.e., hospitalists, nurses)
- Ordering meals
- Controlling environmental factors like room temperature and lighting
- Reviewing and filling prescriptions
- Scheduling follow-up care
- Communicating with the care team & hospital services
- Completing discharge assessments
Information technology is perhaps the most powerful recent advancement in the health care industry because it helps facilitate communication between nurses and practitioners so that they are better able to address the concerns and needs of the patient’s care. Clinical Informatics, for example, is a new and improved part of the vital health care delivery process. Clinical Informatics merges nursing science and computer science to better manage and convey patient data, information and best practices. In addition, Clinical Informatics includes the use of any improved information technology for the betterment of patient self-care.
Under this umbrella, nurses are able to integrate electronic medication prescribing, telehealth, online appointment scheduling and mobile laboratories to promote and encourage patients to take control over their personal treatment. Having these technologies gather and exchange vital clinical data, patients can seek care without unnecessary hospitalization or doctor’s visits. This not only helps to reduce the time nurses spend assisting patients coordinate care, but it also helps to synchronize and share important patient data to better support effective patient care and assure a more efficient workflow.
Thanks to the development of these aforementioned technologies and many like them, nurses are now able to streamline their efforts of providing high quality patient care without common, unnecessary distractions or deterrents.
∗Hendrich, Ann; Chow, Marilyn; Skierczynski, Boguslaw A.; and Lu, Zhenqiang, “A 36-Hospital Time and Motion Study: How Do Medical-Surgical Nurses Spend Their Time?” (2008). RCHE Publications. Paper 50. Hendrich A, Chow MP, Skierczynski BA, Lu Z. A 36-hospital time and motion study: how do medical-surgical nurses spend their time? Perm J. 2008;12(3):25–34. doi: 10.7812/TPP/08-021.