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Emerging Nursing Technologies

Breakthroughs in informatics improve nurses' daily routines.

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Today's nurses are at the center of care delivery. But nurses on average spend only about 31 percent of their time on direct patient care. The rest? Paperwork. Resource allocation. Information management. Workflow and communications issues. All the necessary work that can and must be done, but which puts extraordinary pressure on a nurse's capabilities and time.

But the use of proven technology solutions can have a major impact on individual satisfaction, hospital operations and patient care. A new report for the California HealthCare Foundation, Equipped for Efficiency: Improving Nursing Care Through Technology, says emerging technologies like wireless communications, real-time location systems and even delivery robots can dramatically increase a nurse's time with patients.

When nurses and their facilities take on their everyday challenges, and apply powerful tools to tackle them, a better work environment and better healthcare result, say the report authors.

Examples Abound

The nurses consulted for the report mentioned numerous projects completed with the help of technology, said Fran Turisco, MBA, research principal at CSC, a consulting and systems integration company, and co-author of the report with Jared Rhoads, MS, senior research analyst at CSC.

"Nurses are asking, 'Here's a problem, now how can we use technology to redesign the care process and help us everyday?'" Turisco said. "These technologies are working in real hospitals and for real nurses, people who rolled up their sleeves, dug into a problem and put technology to use to make a big difference."

The report details how hospitals across the country are using technology for practical solutions to persistent problems. This perspective is spreading to nurse administrators and nurses on the unit floor, as they are faced with shortages and increased patient demands.

"Nurses are constantly multitasking at the highest level," said Linda Talley, RN, director of nursing systems at Children's National Medical Center in Washington, DC. Talley and her team used a patient monitor alarm system to enhance communications.

"We need to continue to push toward finding smart solutions that bring decision support to what we have. It's tremendously challenging to triage and prioritize all the multiple tasks nurses are confronted with every day. Why not use the tools at hand to make nursing work more efficient, intuitive and user-friendly?"

Nurses & Technology

Eight technologies being adopted by nurses and hospitals throughout the country have been particularly helpful in improving efficiency, productivity, workflow and, overall, patient care.

Some of the technologies are leading-edge (delivery robots), some are relatively simple and intuitive (electronic medication administration with bar coding), but all are taking aim at universal problems and creating big benefits for the nursing environment.

Take communications. The seemingly simple idea of communicating with other nurses and departments can become very complicated very quickly. It usually involves numerous pieces like a unit desk phone, pager and overhead pager, all of which are in fixed locations. Since nurses are mobile, it can take 58 minutes of each day's shift for nurses to walk to a nurse's station to answer the phone.

But with voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) technologies, nurses can tap into the hospital's wireless local area network and reduce time spent walking. Hospitals are using phone headsets or wearable, lightweight badges to bring communications to nurses, independent of location.

At Children's National Medical Center, such wireless communication solution seemed an ideal fix for a newly expanded patient facility with four times as much space for nurses to cover.

Nurses from many departments helped design the wireless communication solution, examine different technologies, talk to vendors and determine needs. As a result, the mean response time for patient monitor alarms dropped from 3 minutes and 10 seconds to 34 seconds. Overall, nurses reported fewer interruptions, better continuity of care and improved workflow.

"The nurses really appreciate how this technology has brought efficiency to their work," Talley said. "They were involved every step of the way in planning and testing, and are very enthusiastic about the tool. It's helpful in the most extreme situations of adverse event, but also for proactive care." 

Emerging Nursing Technologies

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in the furure the new tecnology are going to beused to inprove the qualiry of health care and the patient safety. this is only the begining of the use of the new technologies. in the future they will be used at nursing home setting because of the economy situation and the expences of the health care. The new technology will playn a primary role in nursing job. they will make nurse's job efficientlyand easy

Stoyanka Matanova,  student,  NursingOctober 06, 2012
Faifax, VA

My interest is in real time documentation for bedside nurses who are doing patient assessments. I know that radiologists are using voice recognition to dictate radiology reports real time. What if anything is available or even being considered in this important nursing function?

Catherine Guy,  Nurse ManagerSeptember 11, 2009
Newport , VT

This is a great article about how technology is improving healthcare. At St. Vincent Healthcare, we were involved in the development of an interactive training and education resource complete with multimedia videos and pictures for our operating room (OR) nurses and techs. The software has a sleek menu system with a 3D model of the human body. A nurse clicks on a body part and picks from the list of procedures. She/he is then taken to a Table of Contents where she/he can find pictures/videos and text explaining how to safely and properly position the patient, assemble equipment or how to set up the mayo stands and back table for specific physicians (docs love this).

We call the resource “O.R. PEER” - it documents the workflows, processes and procedure setups for our staff to efficiently and productively use the thousands of instruments and equipment used in the OR.

Not only has this technology improved our efficiency in the OR, it has improved nurse job satisfaction because they are confident that they are fully prepared for each procedure. We have eliminated our dependency on travelers from 41 out of 80 to 0!! This saves our hospital about $1.5 Million each year in labor costs!

I highly recommend this kind of technology to any hospital or clinic that is looking to improve their efficiency, productivity, and patient safety. Not only are we saving money on labor costs, but fewer errors are made in the OR with standardized processes.

More information about this innovative software is available at

Mike Schweitzer,  Chief Medical Officer,  St. Vincent HealthcareMay 29, 2009
Billings, MT

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