Can technology help get nurses back to the bedside?
“Nurses spend less than 40% of their time on direct patient care,” says Burnes Bolton. “We’ve designed a system that doesn’t allow them to be with the patient.”
Technology can help turn that around. Burnes Bolton points out that some devices already in use are aimed at “reducing the time nurses spend hunting and gathering and communicating multiple times in getting or giving information to team members.” These products include tools nurses wear to improve communication and monitor patients remotely, and tools that help nurses and other team members get the information they need to make decisions. Many of these devices have “forcing functions,” such as built-in safety checks used on “smart” infusion pumps.
“Smart” technology is used in many other ways as well. Some beds detect blood flow in the patient’s legs and alert the nurse to possible deep vein thrombosis. Special patient vests collect physiologic data and transmit it to a healthcare worker’s personal digital assistant. “Smart” technology also is being used to promote medication safety.
These communicating and data-gathering devices allow nurses to interpret information and spend more time with patients. Cedars-Sinai nurses told Burnes Bolton they want access to a continuous flow of patient information in the patient’s room so they can spend time observing, educating, and coordinating care instead of collecting data.
But all of this technology has a downside: Many of these products don’t “talk” to each other.
Burnes Bolton also is working on efforts to partner with industries to include nurses in developing new technologies for practice. In her view, we need more biometric systems based on individual patients—for instance, a system that automatically knows the patient’s weight and calculates weight-based drug dosages. She encourages nurses to borrow ideas from other fields and industries as well.
Another use of technology is to ensure that patients are informed of surgical risks. Burnes Bolton says Cedars-Sinai uses an interactive product to help patients “really understand what the risks are and what we are going to do to reduce them.”