Health IT, Hospitals

How are nurses integrating new technology?

A panel at the MedCity ENGAGE conference shed light on some of the benefits and pain points of integrating new technology.

From left: Linda Lockwood of AVIA moderated a panel that included Anna Young of MakerHealth, Ellen Kuhnert of Rightsourcing, and Joe Novello of NurseGrid.

The perspective of nurses regarding new technology integration from pain points to ways it can succeed were the focus of a panel discussion at the MedCity ENGAGE conference in San Diego this week.

Asked how they see technology empowering nurses, the panelists offered a variety of perspectives.

Joe Novello, founder and CEO of NurseGrid, noted that his business is working with nurses to develop apps to make scheduling easier and improve communication for booking time off and care coordination.

Ellen Kuhnert, Chief Clinical Officer with Rightsourcing, noted that apps that help nurses monitor patients from mobile devices such as medication drip rates are helping reduce the need to frequently visit the nurses’ station to doublecheck information. They are allowing nurses to deliver timely care and do a better job of managing their other responsibilities. Kuhnert also drew attention to biometric technology for medical devices such as the use of fingerprint scans to reduce the burden of looking up forgotten passwords or seek assistance.

In an effort to help nurses identify problems they see in their work environment and harness technology to address them, MakerHealth CEO Anna Young talked about the evolution of MakerNurse, which is part of MakerHealth. She also noted  how her organization has set up design toolkits and creative spaces for hospitals to customize and utilize technology at the point of care. Not only do they help nurses make an impact but also nurses collaborate with patients to improve their experience.

The toolkits and creative workstations can include Velcro and zip ties; textiles and electronics, such as sensors and microcontrollers; and tools such as pliers and sewing needles to 3D printers and laser cutters.

“We are operating a network of hospital maker spaces and also backend software where nurses are able to upload what they create and the protocol and tools they’re using,” Young said. “What is really exciting is how a community has been formed around this.”

Young drew attention to a couple of examples of the group’s vision in action, referencing its partner University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. One nurse, Courtney DelBosque, developed a protocol for custom cutting stickers for very small patients to protect their delicate skin from the tubes that deliver nutrients and oxygen as an alternative to the medical grade tape that keeps the tubes in place at UTMB’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

In another case, a hospital refurbishment led to new chairs that lacked the components to secure catheter bags. Rachel Murphy developed hooks on the chairs for the bags, using a laser cutter after designing a specific pattern for a hook to hang the catheter bag over the chair.

“This was an oversite in procurement where no one brought a nurse into the room to point out this flaw,” Young recalled.

But panelists also talked about the downsides of some of the technologies adopted by hospitals and the ways in which it was integrated. Kuhnert recalled a conversation with one patient who likened the experience of a patient identification system to ensure that the right patient gets the correct medication to a grocery item being scanned at the checkout counter, “because the only time nurses engaged with her was when they scanned ID bracelets and medication.”

EHR systems have created a lot of pressure on nurses, Kuhnert observed. They find it challenging to balance patient engagement, education and support and explain why patients are receiving certain medications while battling a time crunch.

“Although the technology has brought a lot of great solutions, it has also created a lot of barriers that we were not prepared to deal with,” Kuhnert said.

The disconnect between the user experience and the process hospitals use to procure new technology was a source of frustration familiar to Novello.

“Unfortunately for me, most of the technology put in front of me has not had the best user experience. There is a big problem that the procurement cycle doesn’t include people using the technology. Sometimes the value that’s supposed to be derived from that technology doesn’t always work out the way it is supposed to.”

Photo: Jill Fleming Photography