Nursing Tech Breakthroughs That Greatly Benefit Patient Well-Being

The healthcare system is like any other industry: Digital technology has completely and irrevocably changed. Granted, not all of these changes are here today. The tech exists, sure, but not all hospitals have the budget or understanding to implement it.

Even with spotty adaptation, however, the impact is significant. Nursing technology is changing the game for hospital workers while also helping to provide patients with much higher care. In this article, we highlight specific technologies that are disrupting the healthcare industry.

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Automated IV Pumps

No one likes getting hooked up to an IV. It’s not just the discomfort; it’s also the logistics of the process. Historically, if the drip runs out or a setting needs changing, that means buzzing for the nurse. Not only does that take time for the patient, who may be deprived of whatever the IV was giving them, but it’s also disruptive for the nurse.

Hospital floors are busy during the best of times. Right now, they are also very short-staffed, which makes it even harder for nurses to peel away from whatever they were doing to fiddle around with an IV.

There has to be an easier way!

Ah, but there is. Automated IV pumps allow nurses to regulate and adjust pump settings remotely. They may still need to come in and refill the bags or untangle the occasional tube, but the manual work they need to do gets cut in half.

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nursing tech breakthroughs

Portable Monitors

Depending on the floor, a nurse might find that all their patients are hooked up to some monitoring technology, like Dave.

Dave has been feeling so good lately. He’s forty-eight. A little heavy. And if he’s being honest with himself, he’s never really even know what the word “diet” means—buying low-fat chips?

Historically, it’s been fine. Maybe he was always on the slightly heavier side, but some men carry that well and — anyway. His chest hurts, his breath is shallow, and his heartbeat is all over the place. Sometimes it throbs like a drum. Other times it whispers like a fall wind.

Dave’s doctor admitted him for in-patient monitoring. That means a hospital bed and an ECG.
Tonight, Greg is taking care of him. Greg is a busy floor nurse with a hall full of well-off patients. Needy isn’t the word he would use but if the weird hospital sock fits, wear it.

Greg is down the hall from Dave’s room when he peeks at the monitor. He pulls it up right there and — uh oh! Dave’s heart rate has dipped lower than that of some rocks.

They can save Dave because portable monitoring devices make it easier for healthcare professionals to check on their patients from anywhere.

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Smart Beds

Smart beds automatically adjust to keep patients safe. This alone is enormously time-saving for nurses who certainly have better things to do with their time than constantly adjusting beds. If Greg from our last example had been messing around with sheets, he might not have thought to check on Dave at the right moment.

Smart beds also can monitor patient vitals. They might identify heart rate patterns or sleep restlessness and help the healthcare staff better understand how patients move and behave when they are not around.

It’s just one more way nurses can “see” what is happening in a hospital room without being there.

And, of course, this benefits the patient as well. More monitoring is always good in the hospital setting, but it’s also good for a patient’s mental and emotional wellness to have some control over their comfort.

A hospital bed that can only be adjusted by nursing personnel takes power out of the patient’s hands. It can be disheartening to need to buzz for help to get comfortable. Much of the recovery owes to the patient’s mental wellness. Smart beds make things just a little bit easier for them.

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Wearable healthcare technology is improving nursing and the entire industry at large. People can now wear devices that monitor their wellness throughout the day. There are widespread examples of this, like fitness trackers. Devices can be picked up for around $100 to monitor your physical activity.

These devices often take other readings, like your heart rate and blood pressure. Vital readings that you otherwise only get once a year at your annual doctor visit.

This alone can be life-changing or even saving to someone who notices on their tracker that their heart rate is a little out of wack or their blood pressure tends to be higher than they might have guessed.

Keep in mind that catching things early is the best scenario for health. There are also more advanced forms of wearable monitoring. People with diabetes might wear IoT (internet of things) powered glucose monitors.

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This device will monitor their glucose even when they are sleeping. This development can save lives. Previously, if glucose levels dipped dangerously low during sleep, it could do severe and permanent damage, resulting in a coma or even death.

IoT-infused glucose monitors alert the right people to the situation immediately. The patient gets the help they need in real-time to avoid event escalation.

The same is true of modern heart monitors or pacemakers. Devices that now allow doctors and nurses to take a direct and constant look at their patient’s health. Not only can they administer life-saving interventions when the need presents itself, but they are also given a wealth of data that will help them provide more bespoke care for their patients.

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Electronic Health Records

Electronic health records, though not specific to nurses, are an important development that has revolutionized the way care is given over the last several years. Now, patients can have their essential records made available anywhere and anytime they are needed.

This means that if they are in an out-of-state accident, their health information could theoretically be at the hospital they will be treated before they even arrive in the ambulance.

These records also give patients lots more autonomy over their health. Hospitals are no longer the gatekeepers for their files. They can access them whenever they want.

Of course, there are privacy concerns. Isn’t anything online highly subject to the actions of bad actors? Hackers can theoretically get into your digital health records. They may even have the motivation to do so.

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Personal health records can have monetary value or be taken as a way of seeding distrust and fear — as happened in Ireland last year. Hundreds of personal health records were leaked in a Russian-led cyber terrorism event.

If it can happen to Ireland, what’s keeping Joe Schmoe safe? And that’s true enough. There are risks associated with any online activity.

However, knowledge is always the best antidote for fear. Patient confidentiality laws in the United States are stringent. Through HIPAA, healthcare providers must take great precautions to keep private records private—a rule that extends even toward cyberspace.

Here, records are protected through encryption, unique login credentials, and automated sign-outs. In short, a bunch of features that make the app reasonably annoying to use but also much safer.
Patients worried about privacy can further protect themselves by brushing up on best practices.

For example, don’t stay logged into your patient healthcare app longer than necessary. Be mindful of what wifi hotspots you log into, and be vigilant about avoiding wrong links or opening suspicious emails. You laugh, but The Marriott data breach happened because a mid-level employee opened the wrong email. Small mistakes have significant consequences in cyberspace.

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Administrative Technology

Not all care-related breakthroughs touch the patients directly. Some do their magic by helping staff instead. It’s hardly a secret that healthcare is a complex field. The hours are long. The work itself is physically, mentally, and emotionally draining. Work that isn’t for the faint of heart, but even seasoned vets get worn down from time to time.

People like to blame the nursing shortage on Covid, but that’s a very narrow look at a situation already well in the making. For years, there have been more nurses going out than coming in. People would leave either through retirement or to pursue a different career. When they left, there wasn’t always someone new coming up to take their place.

Why? Nursing is hard! Good administrative technology makes it a little easier by optimizing schedules and streamlining staff-related communications.

Nurses now have access to user-friendly portals that allow them to request shifts, manage schedules, and effectively communicate with their co-workers all from one space.

This can’t undo the damage of three consecutive night shifts, but it can make the job easier by giving nurses an easier way to share their voices at work.

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Many applications also allow patients to get elementary forms of healthcare from the comfort of their homes. Software that lets them ask questions make requests, and possibly even get their subscriptions remotely adjusted.

This is great for patients because they no longer need to get in their car and wait an hour to see a doctor for five minutes. It’s also great for the healthcare system because they aren’t nearly as bogged down with minor complaints as they used to be.

Nurses and doctors have more time to deal with the big things, and patients have more time to spend not being at the hospital.

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Reference Materials

And, of course, reference materials. Nurses are bright people, but in the heat of the moment, they don’t always want to rely on their memory to provide high levels of care. Reference apps allow them to quickly access entire libraries of information from the palm of their hand. Think Wikipedia, but accurate and entirely for doctors and nurses.

Relax: this doesn’t mean that every nurse in the room will dive into their phones for any and every crisis. Most situations will still be handled old-fashioned — through learned knowledge and nursing intuition. Still, when a tricky situation does crop up, it’s nice to have a way to deal with it quickly.

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Finally, data. It could be said that data is the thread binding most, if not all, of the technologies above together. However, it’s so important that it deserves its heading. Healthcare-related data can be used to learn more about communities by analyzing their general healthcare stats.

For example. Community Y has high levels of obesity and vaccine hesitancy. Knowing this, the local hospital system can launch a vaccine information campaign and prepare to deal with the unique health challenges that come with obesity.

Data can also be used at the individual level to analyze a patient’s records and make concrete recommendations for future treatment.

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Like all of the technologies on this list, sophisticated data application tools exist now, but that doesn’t mean they are widely used. All the technologies on this list require funding, awareness, and commitment. Three factors can be slow to come by in the healthcare industry.

Broader adaptation of all these technologies will happen eventually. For now, nurses and their patients must settle for what they get. An app here, a little bit of intelligent hardware there. But slow though progress may sometimes feel, it always comes eventually.

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