Healthcare technology can improve patient outcomes while also making life much easier for the doctors and nurses serving them. It moves pretty fast, too, with new developments always coming out.
It can be hard to keep up with the latest in healthcare technology. This article provides a sweeping overview of the latest and most excellent tools that nurse practitioners use daily.
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Of course, technology in healthcare is nothing new. Medical professionals have been pushing the boundaries of what was possible for hundreds of years, always with the latest medical technology advances at their side to make the process go smoother. Is there something fundamentally different happening right now?
Yes and no. The need for medical technology is more or less what it has always been. But access? Development speeds? These things are changing at a much more significant clip thanks to digital technology.
While some medical technological advancements still require sales reps and six or seven-figure transactions — we will talk about some of those as well — many others happen at a smaller but sometimes equally important scale. Software programs. Even phone apps.
Things have a more negligible but highly influential impact on the day-to-day lives of nurse practitioners, their patients, and the broader healthcare system.
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Nurse practitioners need to have a broad knowledge of a wide range of different medical conditions. In many ways, they are similar to family medicine doctors, even able to diagnose and prescribe in some states.
They know their stuff, of course, but sometimes it helps to have external resources available for consulting when the chips are down, and they aren’t sure of something.
Many phone apps and other digital resource collections provide nurses and doctors with enormous amounts of medical information. They can type in symptoms and get a short list of possible causes.
It’s a great resource that can help clarify tricky cases and add a little comfort and peace of mind to a job that doesn’t have much to spare.
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Mental Health Resources
Two years since the start of the pandemic and counting, the medical system in the United States continues to see nursing shortages. This problem was, admittedly, in the works long before the pandemic hit. For years, experts have worried that more people were leaving the profession than coming in.
When Covid landed, it added significant stress to a job that most people working it probably didn’t think could get any more stressful. So, nurses left in large quantities.
Hospitals and the wider world are becoming more sensitive to the mental and emotional challenges of the job. It has become very mainstream for hospitals to provide resources for stress management.
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Some of them are digital. Nurse practitioners and other medical professionals can opt for digital mental health resources ranging from remote therapy sessions to mediation and stress reduction apps.
These resources are available to anyone (pending insurance approval, of course), but they have a unique appeal for mental health professionals. Hospital schedules are busy. Nurse practitioners routinely work sixty-hour weeks and sometimes keep very unusual hours depending on their placement.
Apps take the commute out of the equation and ensure that mental health assistance is only a few clicks away. Not only can this help fight back against the corrosive effects of stress and anxiety, but it also has the potential to reduce turnover and keep people on the job for longer.
Digital technology is particularly great for remote collaboration and communication. Hospital communication apps make it easy for entire floors of doctors and nurses to speak to one another through an easy-to-use interface.
These apps provide hubs where nurse practitioners can view schedules, make requests, or talk with coworkers. This makes it easier to get a shift covered or request time off, but it also has the less tangible benefit of connecting hospital employees who might otherwise not see one another often.
It’s hard to quantify the value of these connections, but research repeatedly shows that they matter. People want to feel close to their coworkers and seen and heard at work. Digital technology can’t entirely replace in-person interactions, but it can serve as an excellent supplementary tool, helping with the logistical and emotional side of the job.
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Digital Patient Communication
Digital patient communications allow people to consult with their nurse practitioner without needing to come into the office. These applications allow patients to ask simple questions through instant messages. The nurse practitioner then answers the questions at some point in the day.
The conversation doesn’t usually happen in real-time, as it might with an in-person visit, but usually, both parties get a better outcome. The patient doesn’t have to take two hours of their day driving and waiting in the waiting room for a five-minute consultation.
The nurse practitioner doesn’t have dozens of people coming in daily with small questions and minor problems. This technology makes it easier for hospitals to navigate effectively, even amid staffing shortages. It also allows patients to have a little more control over their care.
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The healthcare system has been revolutionized by better access to data harvesting, comprehension, and implementation. Data algorithms can now take sweeping looks at community-level health information.
Does this area have high levels of obesity? If so, the hospital can prepare for the conditions that obesity typically brings. Diabetes. High blood pressure. Cardiac events.
During the height of the pandemic, this level of forecasting made it easier for communities to brace themselves for upcoming hospital surges. A data-savvy healthcare system could use regional data to anticipate surges in their community.
They could also take a granular look at community-level data. What percent of people have gotten the vaccine? One dose or two?
At the administrative level, data is used to make the most out of staffing shortages. An administrator can determine how best to distribute labor, equipment, and financial resources by looking at the numbers.
It’s imperfect, of course. Data doesn’t tell the future but merely looks into the past perfectly, finding patterns that can dependably be counted on to replicate in the future.
Data implementation at its current level is still relatively young, so it’s hard even to contextualize how significant the impact of this technology is and will be. Nevertheless, most experts agree it’s a groundbreaking technology that can enormously impact the future of care.
Not all hospital advancements are digital. There are lots of high-tech equipment items entering hospitals for the first time every day. New technology improves the lives of patients and the nurse practitioners serving them.
Hospital beds have a surprisingly significant impact on patients and those caring for them. For patients, the bed is often where you spend twenty or more hours of the day. That’s an enormous time to spend hooked up to tubes on an uncomfortable slab.
Historically, the patient has had little to no control over the position of their bed. Sure, some are adjustable, but by and large, the nurses take care of repositioning them. The reason for this is mainly logistical. Some patients may be hooked up to sensitive equipment. Others might be so weak and infirm that it’s not a good idea for them to try adjusting anything.
Consequently, they are even more at the mercy of hospital staff than before, and the nurses taking care of them must take an excessive amount of time out of their busy schedules adjusting beds.
Smart hospital beds change things by allowing automated or patient-controlled adjustments around predetermined perimeters optimized for the patient’s unique needs. This allows the patient to adjust their bed while freeing the nurses taking care of them to focus on more critical tasks.
It’s worth noting that, in addition to being convenient, this can positively impact the patient’s emotional well-being. Hospital stays remove personal autonomy from the equation. An intelligent bed gives just a little bit of it back.
Many smart beds also feature monitoring features that allow nurse practitioners to observe the patients sleeping patterns. This elusive but important data point can help clarify or identify various health conditions.
Smart beds are expensive, which means that, even though they are technically available, many hospitals throughout the country don’t have access to them yet. Still, for those who do, it’s a convenient tool with the potential to impact patient outcomes.
Health Monitoring Devices
Wearable health monitoring devices have existed forever. However, these devices had to be manually monitored before blue tooth technology. Either the patient would get their results weeks later, at a doctor’s appointment, or the doctor/nurse practitioner would have to visit the hospital room to look at the results.
This dynamic made it easy for big things to go unnoticed for long periods. Internet-infused healthcare devices change that. Here’s an example of how an IoT-infused healthcare product could have life-saving implications.
Dante is in the hospital for cardiac monitoring. He didn’t exactly have a heart attack — the doctors say that at any rate, though when you’re getting carted out of the grocery store clutching your heart, the difference doesn’t feel so meaningful.
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Dante’s nurse practitioner, Randall, has him hooked up to a heart monitor. This means Randall can check up on how his patient is doing, even at the other end of the floor. It also means that he will get instant notifications if something significant happens.
Dante dozes off around eleven one night. Randall is at the front desk when he gets a notification. Dante’s heart rate is slower than a C-Span live stream.
But, because of Randall’s wearable, Dante can intervene immediately, saving his life.
There are versions of this situation that can apply to various ailments. Respiratory conditions. Diabetes. Situations where a device notices a problem and calls it to attention in the nick of time.
And, of course, not all wearables are used in the hospital setting. Even relatively simple devices, like a fitness tracker, can provide valuable medical insights. Before the proliferation of this technology, many people only had their blood pressure and heart rate taken once a year at their annual doctor visits.
They get real-time results daily, making it much easier to catch things before they get out of control.
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Modern healthcare technology has the potential to improve all facets of care. The effects will be felt by nurse practitioners, floor nurses, doctors, administrators, and the communities they serve.
That said, it’s important to note that there are many barriers to full technological implementation. The cost is certainly one of them. Depending on the technology, medical hardware can efficiently run five, six, or even seven figures.
An excellent digital tech stack is a recurring cost that results in high monthly bills. Not every hospital has the budget to take all of this on. Especially not all at once.
There’s also the comprehension barrier. Data and digital technology are great, but they require significant training to master. New medical school graduates tend to come out of their education with a relatively sound understanding of many of the technologies described in this article.
But what about the old guard? The majority of doctors, nurses, and administrators who are many years removed from their last graduation ceremony? For them, mastering digital technology is a massive undertaking.
Time will eventually influence most hospital systems toward broad technological adoption. However, it’s safe to say that at least some modern healthcare technology positively impacts most nurse practitioners.