Six proven technologies for boosting nurse workflow, care

By Molly Merrill
04:30 PM

Six technologies have been named by analysts as having the potential to improve workflow and communication for nurse, while boosting patient care.

The six technologies were highlighted in the article, "Beyond E-Health Records: Technologies That Enhance Care Delivery," written by Fran Turisco, research principal, and Jared Rhoads, senior research analyst, for Emerging Practices in CSC's Healthcare Group.

The analysts looked at whether the technology improved efficiency, safety, care quality or streamlined communications for nurses in a hospital setting. The most important criteria for choosing the technology was that it had been successfully implemented and its impact measured, said Turisco.

The analysts acknowledged that although the EHR did not make the list, it is the underpinning of all the technologies.

The six technologies that met the criteria included:

  1. Workflow management systems. Systems that showed an increase in efficiencies by collecting information from multiple sources and integrating it into a single display. For example, an enterprise-wide system was used at one hospital to enable nurses to offer on-the-spot transportation to other facilities where patients would receive immediate care.
  2. Real-time location systems (RTLS). A system used to locate equipment, patients and staff.  The system's positioning algorithms locate assets and display their location online using a map of the unit to indicate where the closet available resources are located. An interesting case combining RTLS and workflow management systems occurred at a hospital that had purchased RTLS badges for its nurses to track productivity, said Rhodes. The hospital expected there to be "pushback about the device," he said, but by showing nurses the safety benefits, it was able to get buy-in. For example, "the badge enabled the nurses to do interaction summaries, so if a patient came in with TB or any other communicable disease, the nurse could go back to the system and pint out an automatic report of all staff members that came in contact with the patient," he said. 
  3. Wireless mobile VoIP communication. Solutions that tap into the hospital's wireless local area network as its infrastructure and can be integrated with monitoring systems and bed management solutions. Turisco says when this technology is integrated with the hospital's alarm system it can really "start to close the loop." For example, when a patient's heart monitor goes off it can send a message to the nurse's wireless device, which can also be used to respond to the message, she said. Turisco said in some cases it cut response time from three minutes to 30 seconds – minutes that can be life saving.
  4. Wireless patient monitor technologies. Technologies that use sensors that can be integrated into the patient's bed or mattress pad to provide continuous bed-level vigilance. "Going, going gone" is what one hospital called the solution it used to alert the nurses when patients were trying to get out bed, said Rhoads. This technology even comes with the ability to record a family member saying "Mom don't get out of bed," added Turisco. But more importantly she said, this technology can monitor a patient's vital signs to prevent an acute event form occurring.
  5. Delivery robots. Robots can handle a number of fetch-and-deliver tasks and do not require any structural changes to hospital interiors.  At a Washington Hospital, two robots deliver routine medication carts to the units, freeing up pharmacy technicians to join the care team. Turisco said the robots were actually used as part of the hospital's nursing retention program.
  6. Interactive patient system. A system that provides two-way communication and delivers multimedia content at the bedside. For example the system can prompt patients to view educational videos on such topics such as hand-washing and fall prevention which frees up nurses' time for patient care. "This is a technology that has gone very far in terms of how it has helped patient care," said Turisco. "We thought it was just one step better than cable TV, but it is an incredibly useful patient care tool." Especially when it is integrated with the hospital's clinical documentation system, she said. It is aimed at taking care of tasks that usually require a nurse to coordinate or be in attendance for, such as patient educational courses, required before discharge.