Boon or Bane?

Making Sure Technologies Improve (Not Impede) Nursing Care
Medical staff use wall-mounted computers in a hospital.

Technology in clinical environments can be a true ally of nursing care, but it requires careful attention.

This brief explores the unintended consequences associated with three health care technologies—electronic health records (EHRs), alarms, and lifting devices—and highlights some successful responses: nurse-led campaigns to decrease the frequency of nuisance alarms and make lifting devices universally accessible; a ground-breaking collaboration aimed at making unwieldy amounts of patient data meaningful; and the emergence of new nursing roles in guiding technological change.

Key Findings

  • As users of technology at the point of care, nurses must be involved in assessment and design implementation.

  • Insufficient attention to clinical workflows before new technologies are installed can contribute to clinician dissatisfaction.

  • Lack of standardization and interoperability have undercut the potential of EHRs to make patient care more efficient and evidence based.

  • Nurses are finding ways to put a “dent in the din” caused by false or non-actionable alarms, for instance, customizing them for individual patients.

  • Ceiling lifts, while expensive to install, are a cost-effective way to reduce lifting injuries and improve the quality of patient care.

Conclusion

New technologies have the potential to significantly increase efficiency and improve health outcomes, but challenges remain in ensuring that new tools are well-integrated in clinical workflows and fulfill their promise to enhance the quality of care. Nurse leaders and their partners are designing policies and practices that improve the way technologies function in the care environment and ensure that they help, rather than hinder, patient care.

About the Series

For 10 years, Charting Nursing’s Future has assembled research and expert opinion to inform readers about policies and best practices that are transforming nursing, health care and public health. Propensity LLC currently produces this series.