News | November 08, 2007

Design of Medical Technology Needs to Factor-in Nursing

November 9, 2007 - To address concerns about patient safety and the shortage of registered nurses in the U.S., the nation’s leading organization of nursing said Nov. 7 technologies ranging from communications devices to high-tech patient monitors need to be designed with an eye toward saving nursing time and reducing the need for “work arounds.”

This is not being done, according to research conducted by the American Academy of Nursing (AAN) Workforce Commission and supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The project convened an interactive discussion of nurses and other caregivers at 25 hospital and medical centers nationwide - from small community hospitals to large academic medical centers. They found nurses see systems failures and shortcomings that could be addressed through more user-friendly technology.

“Nurses are a crucial point of contact for the patient,” said Linda Burnes Bolton, vice president of nursing and chief nursing officer, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and president of the AAN. “The longer they have to spend away from the bedside as a result of inefficient systems or technologies that are not user-friendly, the more the patient suffers. By identifying and prioritizing critical areas in need of improvement, the first step towards solving a major healthcare crisis has been taken.”

The researchers found to smooth workflow and enhance patient safety, major improvements are needed in the healthcare practice environment. This includes the major systems of care within and between hospital departments and the medical technologies making such care possible. Areas identified most frequently by nurses as needing attention include medication administration, coordination of care, timely access to supplies and equipment, and availability of data and information about patient condition and care.

Often, medical technologies do not assist in this process, but make it more complex or force nurses into time-consuming “work arounds” that take them away from the patient's bedside, the study found. Nurses told researchers they seek technologies that are easier to use, provide them critical information quickly and are wireless, reduce the need for “hunting and gathering” of information or materials, and that work seamlessly with other technologies and care systems in the hospital.

The commission utilized a unique process, known as a technology drill down (TD2), to identify how nurses, hospital executives and technology vendors can work in partnership to meet the needs of patients today and in the future. The process engages nurses and other patient care providers to determine workflow issues and priority work environment areas that should be addressed through the use of technology. The commission also outlined solutions for improving patient safety and quality of care and closing technological gaps.

“We now have the ability to take a wealth of information, presented to us by those working on the frontlines of healthcare, and impress upon the healthcare industry the urgency to design and implement technologies that are developed by nurses, easy to use, patient friendly, and affordable,” said Pamela Cipriano, one of the study leaders and chief clinical officer at the University of Virginia Health System.

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