The Right Technology at the Right Time
I find myself spending large amounts of time in airports, arriving early to get through strict security, or passing time in terminals due to weather or mechanical delays. During those periods, I seek refuge at a quiet boarding gate that has a high concentration of power outlets or Internet access. Finding these spots is often a challenge, as I peer under seats, circle support columns and poke around vending machines. Occasionally, if I'm lucky, I run across a re-charging station to at least take care of my power needs.
These recharging stations are becoming more and more popular as business travelers flock to them to charge a plethora of devices. There you can find the latest "must have" or "cool" device / gadget on the market. But as I glance at the array of devices, I wonder, "Is cool always smart?" As a nurse, what really matters to me is the impact a device has on workflow or how I do my job, not necessarily its "coolness."
By many estimates, the typical nurse spends approximately 2 hours a shift simply keeping numbers current in patient medical records. By the time the doctors and multidisciplinary care team actually receive the information, it's often already outdated. To me, "smart" gadgets should help me decrease the time I spend inputting data and increase the time I spend directly caring for my patients.
Mobile devices, such as tablets and smart phones, may be the latest technology, and what many hospitals are considering incorporating into every part of nursing workflow. But I'm not so sure these devices will help a nurse achieve what he/she intends. In my experience, adding to nurses' tool belts (which can include as many as 15 other devices) can sometimes weigh us down rather than increase the time directly interacting with patients. We should be "hands on" with our patients, not with another device.
As nurses, our focus should always be on delivering safe, competent, and compassionate care. We should take caution with becoming the first to use an innovative new technology. So, before moving ahead with the introduction of the latest and greatest mobile technologies, perhaps a hospital should consider the following items:
- Is it easy to use? Has it been thoroughly tested in the care environment?
- How many steps must the nurse complete in order to get data to its end location? Is it intuitive? Simple? Fast?
- Does it need to be put down for best data input? Where do we put the device if the patient needs our immediate attention? Then what about the transmission of infectious properties as we go from room to room?
As with any technology purchase, good research and asking the right questions are musts to help assure the tools acquired are more than "cool," but actually useful. When it comes to nursing and patient care, that usefulness equates to quality care, so we must be aware of the shiny new gadget and be confident that we are implementing the right technology, for the right people, at the right point in time.