Like many other high-stress fields, nursing is facing a workforce shortage. Nurses have increasing amounts of responsibility, on top of their already strenuous work hours. As a result, the medical field is turning to new technologies to help nurses deliver the best care possible. Advances that are making big waves in other industries — like AI, 5G connectivity and data analysis technology — may impact nursing the most. Here are three ways new technology is changing nursing.
1. Digital Records Are Changing Record-Keeping
New digital medical records, called electronic medical records (EMRs), have quickly become the norm at health care providers around the country. EMRs are digital records of a patient’s medical history — their symptoms, diagnoses, lab results and so on. These records bring together large amounts of information in a standardized fashion, so nurses can get a better sense of a patient’s medical history at a glance.
Medical professionals hope these records will improve health outcomes by making it easy for nurses to make in-the-moment decisions and by centralizing medical record-keeping — reducing the number of documents that will need corrections if there is a mistake.
There has been some controversy surrounding the implementation of EMRs — some nurses worry digital records make patient data more vulnerable to theft. It’s certainly a possibility — in 2018, data breaches and poor security led to the theft of millions of patient records. And experts expect these breaches to get more sophisticated in the future, even as health care professionals become more aware of the risks posed by hackers and cyber-criminals.
But the convenience and accuracy the technology provides — and how much easier it makes patient data to analyze — mean the digital records are likely here to stay.
2. Telemedicine Brings Nurses To Their Patients
Telemedicine — caring for patients remotely via telecommunications — isn’t a new idea, but slow connection speeds have made it difficult or impractical in the past. 5G — the latest version of cell network technology — can provide speeds up to 100 times faster than 4G. Doctors and nurses with access to 5G can communicate with nearly zero lag with patients from anywhere with a cell connection — including rural areas, where medical professionals may be harder to reach.
The speeds are so fast, some surgeons are even using the technology to perform telesurgery — the remote use of surgical robots. Telesurgery has been around since the early 2000s, but its development has been slow due to the high cost of providing the connection speeds necessary. 5G is already changing this, and surgeons around the world have conducted experimental telesurgery operations.
In the future, doctors and surgeons may be able to treat patients without leaving their office. Updated technology will reduce the number of patients who need to visit clinics or check in to hospitals, and allow patients to remotely ask nurses follow-up questions during recovery, lowering the risk of re-admission.
3. Nursing Informatics Combines Statistics With Health Care
Nursing informatics is a new field of data science that combines nurses’ medical expertise with statistics to analyze patient and health data. The rise of EMRs has made medical data much easier to analyze, because the data is already in a digital format that data scientists can work with.
An additional focus of nursing informatics includes digitizing archival records and analyzing health statistics to provide health care platforms and software that assists nurses.
Nursing is facing a worker shortage, and nurses are already working long shifts, increasing their risk for workplace injury. AI could help smooth the gaps between workers — not replacing nurses, but lightening the load placed on an overtasked workforce.
As artificial intelligence changes data analysis in other fields, it may similarly transform nursing informatics. AI algorithms will help scientists identify health patterns and build models that help nurses in both patient care and on-the-spot decision-making.
Some medical professionals envision chatbot AIs will serve as a form of follow-up care. These bots will provide patients information and answer medical questions after they’ve returned home, ideally reducing the number of re-admissions.
A Bright Future Is Ahead
Telemedicine will bring nurses to rural areas without forcing them to travel, while EMR and nursing informatics will help improve health outcomes by providing nurses with better data and health predictions.
These new developments aren’t entirely free of controversy, but they will probably be sticking around. Right now, there aren’t enough nurses to meet the high demand of the field. New technology should help with these shortages and give nurses the information they need to make better decisions.