Health IT

#HIMSS12: 4 ways technology can help nurses thrive

MedCity News is providing in-depth coverage of HIMSS2012 as part of a special series sponsored by Hyland Software.

The less time nurses spend at the bedside, the more patient care suffers.

The problem for nurses (and the patients who depend on them) is that nurses end up spending lots of time on nonvalue-added tasks: Documentation is burdensome and seemingly endless. They have to carry more data in their heads than they could possibly be expected to remember. They’re frequently interrupted in the middle of critical work flows.


“Despite the introduction of technology, we’re challenged on how to bring order to a very complex environment,” said Julie Vilardi, a registered nurse and executive director of strategic projects and clinical information with health system Kaiser Permanente.

However, all those challenges mean that there’s a “golden opportunity” to integrate technology into nurses’ work flows to improve patient care, Vilardi and a colleague said during a presentation at the HIMSS2012 health IT conference.

Kaiser, which employs 44,000 nurses in the U.S., has embarked upon an initiative to “disruptively innovate” and improve nurses’ work environments (and, in turn, patient care) with data, analytics and information technology. Kaiser calls the plan its “SmartCare strategy.”

Kaiser is still in the early stages of implementing the strategy and expects it to take several years. Nonetheless, here are four of the SmartCare strategy’s key focus areas:

Rapid sign-on: It can be time consuming for nurses to enter log-in data and and then log out of the information system every time they record patient data. By implementing technology that allows for log in and log out with a simple badge tap, the task can be accomplished in less than a second.

Clinical dashboards: Analytical software can turn data into clinical intelligence and aid with decision support at the point of care. In this scenario, a nurse could walk into a hospital room, for example, and instantly receive a message that a patient’s main line catheter needs to be changed.

Work flow automation: Nurses are typically a hospital’s information integrators, helping coordinate all aspects of a patient’s care. Providing nurses with tools that can manage tasks and schedules can assure that critical work flows are consistent, reliable and accurate.

Mobility: Mobile devices such as tablets and phones allow nurses to be untethered to workstations, making real-time documentation of key vital signs quicker and easier. Taking things a step further, integrating data-recording devices with a hospital’s health information systems could remove entirely the need for nurses to enter certain types of patient data.

 [Photo from flickr user xersti]

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