Transforming Nursing and Healthcare Through Technology
Healthcare Technology Trends and Benefits
One of the most significant trends in healthcare technology has been the implementation and use of Electronic Health Records (EHRs). EHRs are a digital version of a patient’s paper medical record that may contain information about the patient’s medical history, diagnoses, treatments, test results, and much more (HealthIT.gov, 2018b). The use of the EHR allows clinicians to review and document information about a patient’s health in an efficient and easily accessible way (HealthIT.gov, 2018b). Digital health platforms and EHRs are transforming the way care is delivered and have the potential to positively impact healthcare in the following ways: improve patient care, increase patient participation, improve care coordination, reduce cost, and improve patient care efficiencies (HealthIT.gov, 2018a).
At my current hospital, most units have an EHR system in place, which has helped improve the workflow among interdisciplinary team members. Several clinicians have access to the patient’s chart at one time, which is often necessary for expediting care. However, the outpatient surgery unit where I work does not have a complete EHR in place; instead, the department utilizes a paper chart supplemented by the EHR. I have often had to wait for the chart to provide care if another clinician is using it. One potential benefit of implementing a complete EHR system at my unit would be to improve the workflow efficiency of the staff and improve overall patient care by being able to share information with other providers. Since EHRs are designed to share information, authorized providers have simultaneous access to the patient’s chart and can work together more effectively as teams to provide the best, collaborative care for the patient (HealthIT.gov, 2018a).
Healthcare Technology Challenges and Risk
The use of EHRs can be very beneficial, but challenges continue to persist as this technology emerges. Zandieh et al., (2008) described one challenge of EHRs as determining the extent of information technology (IT) support necessary for EHRs to function efficiently. Technology does have the potential to improve workflow; however, when hardware or software problems arise, this can create a considerable delay in patient care if the appropriate IT support is not available (Zandieh et al., 2008).
Another challenge that has become evident in the research is the resistance healthcare staff may have towards using new technology, including EHRs. Barrett (2017) explained that clinicians have perceived the use of EHRs as an interruption to their work routines, and resistance to change has posed one of the most significant challenges in EHR implementation. Learning a new EHR system has been shown to initially interrupt workflow, patient communication, and job-specific performance until users become proficient in EHR use (Eggemberger, 2012).
Several significant risks are also an unwanted but inherent part of adopting EHR technology. Due to the nature of sensitive healthcare information stored by complex data systems, the risk of a breach in that data could pose a significant threat to patients’ personal information collected through this type of technology (McGonigle & Mastrian, 2018). Rigorous rules and control mechanisms are crucial to protect personal health information from potential data breaches (Wang et al., 2018). Fortunately, organizations and policymakers have taken these risks into account and have gotten involved in legislative actions to help keep data secure to protect patient information. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH) have been crucial to protecting patient information; however, this legislation does not encompass the collection of patient data or the large area of data that is available outside of HIPAA rules (Terry, 2013). As a nurse leader, it will be essential to identify the risks and benefits of technological advances and ensure that patient care continues to improve without jeopardizing patients’ rights and privacy in the process.
Most Promising Technologies
Telehealth has been around since the late 1990s; however, the advancements in technology to improve patient care through videoconferencing, real-time consultations, and the use of remote monitoring to capture and transmit biometric data are positively affecting healthcare (McGonigle & Mastrian, 2018). As more patients choose to receive care at home, and there continues to be a growing need to care for patients who have limited access to health care services, telehealth is evolving to offer broader and more advanced services (Mohammad & El-sol, 2020). With these technologies in place, clinicians can see more patients than before and monitor patients in harder-to-reach areas. McGonigle & Mastrian (2018) explain that one provider can serve 12-16 patients a day via telehealth versus only seven patients a day using traditional in-person home health care. Current trends continue to show that telehealth is becoming increasingly critical in improving patient care outcomes, lending to the necessity for clinicians to adopt these new practices as a standard for patient care (Balenton & Chiappelli, 2017).
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