We hear a lot about how new technologies are affecting health care and nursing. Moving patient records online and the use of other information technology software are the most obvious examples, but many other futuristic medical technologies straight out of science fiction are becoming a reality. Here’s a snapshot of some of the most exciting technological innovations today and how they’re improving nursing practice and patient outcomes.
- Wireless Communication Systems
Wireless badges or headsets integrate what were once multiple communication methods — such as phones and pagers — into one seamless technology, reducing response times. Wireless communication systems can also be “smart”: they can automatically route calls about certain situations or patients to specific nurses, or communicate with sensors and medical equipment to report patients’ health data.
These systems can also alert various health care professionals in case of emergencies as well as foster collaboration and communication in time-sensitive situations.
- Real-Time Location Services
Nurses often must track down vital equipment, costing them time that could be spent on more pressing nursing duties or even slowing down response times during emergencies. A chip or code embedded in medical equipment using indoor positioning systems can immediately locate the item. Such systems can also cut down on theft or misuse, saving nursing departments money on replacement or repair.
Real-time location services can also be used with patients who may suffer from mental illness or dementia by outfitting them with a wristband or badge embedded with the technology. Electronic borders can be created to set off an alarm when patients cross them — preventing them from wandering off and potentially injuring themselves or others. These services can also be integrated into nurses’ wireless communication systems to activate an emergency call button if their physical safety is threatened.
- Wireless Patient Monitoring
Chips and sensors can be integrated into beds, blankets, and mattress pads to monitor and report on weight, blood pressure, movement, and more during sleep, serving as an extra layer of observation. This technology can help patients avoid bedsores and falls, and alerts nurses to any changes in patients’ status, whether dramatic or slow building.
- Smart TVs
Once just a tool for patient entertainment, TVs with smart technology can now provide information on upcoming treatments and deliver instructions for medication or post-discharge care. This helps patients become more educated and engaged with their health status and management. They can also use the smart TV to report pain levels and other indicators, while the system can send non-clinical requests (such as orders for meals or fresh bedding) to the appropriate department or individual, maximizing the efficiency of nurses’ time and efforts.
- Point of Care Technology
Nurses and other health care professionals may wear or carry technology that scans a barcode, which immediately sends vital patient information and medical history — such as a list of current medications, test results, and allergies — to a notebook or smartphone, or even a wearable device such as Google Glass. Instead of having to pull information from several files, charts, and emails, nurses can immediately see lab results, reports from other health care professionals such as psychiatrists or physical therapists, and past reactions to procedures or medicines, allowing them to quickly create or alter a clinical care plan as needed.
New technology can be as intimidating for nurses as it sometimes is for patients, so appropriate training and system design is vital for success. As technology is adapted into more health care settings, it may eventually be used in new, unexpected ways, or bring to light new possibilities that can improve nursing practice and health care even further.
Aside from requiring new skills to understand and operate them correctly, these new technologies require nurses to have top critical-thinking, decision-making, and leadership skills to support the maximum benefits to their practice as well as patients. The online RN to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN) and Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) programs from University of Saint Mary are designed to develop the abilities that will support your success in the technology-driven, fast-moving health care environment.