Nurses: The First Practitioners of mHealth
Legions of caring nurses were probably the first practitioners of mobile health (mHealth), starting in the last century — the pre-smartphone era. Nurses often carried “beepers” or what is now considered antiquated pagers.
Ways Mobile Technology Can Enhance Nurse Communications
Today, there are many ways mobile technology can enhance nurse communications. New mobile technologies are poised to empower nurses to both spend more time with patients and improve the quality of their care. Many believe this will make nurses more efficient, lead to lower fatigue, and result in fewer overtime hours — saving hospitals money. Mobile technologies, which include sensors, devices, and apps will make it easier for nurses to access information from wherever they are and collaborate with a patient’s care team.
Accenture research found that nurses frequently use a diverse range of communication technologies. These include: bed alarms, digital signage, both mobile and landline phones, and patient tracking systems. Anyone who has stayed in a hospital as a patient, will report that many of these produce a variety of beeps, whistles, and buzzes — notifications that nurses respond to. These technologies hold the promise of empowering nurses with the ability to communicate, receive alerts on patient status, and get easy access to data on patient treatments. But the downside to these devices is an increase in alerts — and the resultant increase in alarm fatigue and interruptions.
Accenture Research Report – How to Overcome Technology Challenges:
- Focus on the four primary communications challenges: interruptions, transitions in care, nurse-physician communication, and nurse-patient/family communications
- Implement an integrated technology portfolio with a mix of standard communication devices
- Offer nurses the ability to indicate their availability and preferred communication medium (allowing for BYOD) and smartphone pager replacement apps (such as the OnPage pager replacement app for smartphones).
- Create integrated applications available from one communication device (such as a smartphone) that aligns well with a nurse’s workflow
- Include options for patients and families, such as automated updates for a family member, and tablets or kiosks in waiting rooms. These should help contribute to both health care economics and the overall quality of care.
Offer Direct Communication between Nurses and Patients
The Issue: A Communication Bottleneck
Today, when a hospital patient calls for assistance, their call is often routed to a nursing console on the unit. With unit secretaries now wearing multiple hats and not always staffing the console full time, the call might go unanswered for several minutes. Are there better ways mobile technology can enhance nurse communications?
A Solution to Nurse Communication Challenges — Mobile Software
More effective communication software can help circumvent the wait and triage time at the unit’s central desk. Software can connect a patient directly to the caregiver (a nurse or certified nurse’s assistant) on his or her mobile device – which may be a tablet, smartphone, voice badge, or Wi-Fi phone. Nurses who use this more direct and immediate technology are able to respond by calling back from their devices and speaking directly with the patient.
So what if the nurse happens to be busy with another patient and must decline the call? There’s a technology solution to that as well. Some systems feature automatic forwarding (or in the case of the OnPage system — an escalation) of the notification to the next available staff member.
The combination of appropriate mobile technology, software, direct communications, and features such as automatic forwarding can result in a faster and more efficient answering process, less stressed nurses, and happier patients. There are many ways mobile technology can enhance nurse communications with patients and solve – it’s just a matter of picking the right technology and software and matching it to the evolving challenges nurses face daily.