Emerging Tech in Nursing Care
The medical field is generally quick to adopt new technologies that can improve care and safety. Many new technologies are focused not on treatments but on improving safety, efficiency and the patient experience. Nurses are often among the first to use these tools. Which of these have you encountered in your career?
Tattoos might not seem to have a place health care, but thanks to the work of Heather Clark, associate professor of pharmaceutical services at Boston’s Northeastern University, they may help people with diabetes.
Clark’s tattoos consist of temporary injections of nanosensors applied to the upper layer of the skin. The ink in the tattoos reacts to blood glucose, changing color as levels rise and drop.
Clark also reports that the same principle could be applied to monitoring other health markers, such as sodium levels, potentially eliminating patient errors when taking their own readings and helping nurses accurately monitor conditions without invasive or time-consuming tests.
Health Care Apps
A study from the Columbia University School of Nursing found that an app can help nurses make more diagnoses when it comes to common chronic conditions.
Looking at 363 RNs caring for more than 4,000 patients, the study found that an app focused on evidence-based clinical guidelines led nurses using it to correctly identify patients as overweight, obese, tobacco users or having depression more often than those not using the technology.
Nurse Together suggests a handful of apps especially helpful for nurses:
- Epocrates gives quick access to prescription drug information
- Sanford Guide offers detailed info on antimicrobial therapies
- Skyscape offers a suite of apps, from a digital medical library to an app for clinical tracking and reporting
- Happitique, Prevention and the Centers for Disease Control app are great apps to refer to patients hungry for medical information
The market for wearable devices (smart watches, activity trackers, etc.) is expected to hit $34 billion by 2020. While the technologies are continuing to evolve, they already hold at least five benefits to nurses in particular:
- Sending people home with a wearable device can help nurses track recovery, providing data on heart rate, range of motion and more
- Wearables with live video streaming can capture the work of experienced nurses doing everyday tasks like drawing blood or administering stitches, helping distance-teach students and newer nurses in real-time
- Nurses and other care providers can gather large amounts of data from patients wearing health monitors, helping them find valuable correlations, such as between certain conditions and age, geography, etc.
- Wearable tech enables nurses and other care providers to send people appointment updates and reminders, prescription notifications and more
Robotics in Intervention
Today, people undergoing surgery may be the biggest beneficiaries of medical robotics. From synthetic joints and organs to advanced treatments involving nanotechnology, there are many novel implants and treatments based on robotics technologies.
Nurses will have an important role in diagnosing problems with these devices and ordering tests to ensure their continued function. They'll also be on the front lines of familiarizing people with these devices and interventions, which will likely seem intimidating to many at first.
Robotics in Education
Nurse education also stands to benefit from robotics, with students pursuing degrees in the near future working on advanced simulation robots that accurately represent actual people and their health issues.
Nurse educators will be the vanguard of these evolutions, being the first to study their effectiveness and helping to prepare the next generation of nurses to make even better use of them.
Robotics in Human Connection
Robots are currently being developed to help mental health nurses connect with otherwise reticent patients. One of the most popular, Paro, has been used in Japan and Europe since 2003, according to its manufacturers.
Designed to look like a baby seal, Paro is equipped with advanced sensors that allow it to respond to touch, light, sound, temperature and its orientation in the environment. Robots like Paro have been found to reduce stress in patients and make them more comfortable with nurses and other care providers.