The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) warns that without the involvement of nurses, the digital transformation will remain a pipe-dream.
The report shows that there is a great benefit to involving nurses in the design and implementation of new technologies.
A report published yesterday by the Royal College of Nursing indicates that many nurses and midwives feel that the technology they have access to is sub par and also a detriment to the healthcare that they are able to provide.
Slow computers, inadequate and/or out-of-date software, and a lack of equipment are barriers to improving patient care.
One nurse lamented:
“The single, most fundamental problem is the inadequacy of our IT systems. We are currently upgrading our PCs to run Windows 7 – an OS [operating system] that is already nearly a decade out of date! Of course, not all of our computers can be updated – many of them are so old they can only run Windows XP.”
Many of the technologies that nurses would like are currently in use at some hospitals and community services to great effect, but due to a variety of reasons including budgets and resources, these haven’t been implemented on a national scale.
Examples of these include:
- A digital photography app and accompanying database to improve the assessment and management of wounds following cardiothoracic surgery
- The introduction of telehealth to support patients with long-term conditions, enabling remote nursing triage
- Digital patient diaries in critical care, empowering families visiting patients to document their comments and concerns
- Texting services and websites for young people to discuss health issues
- An app to help inpatients manage their diabetes
Many of the people who took part in this consultation have very clear ideas of how healthcare can be improved through technology, with one nurse citing that patient records are often not properly curated, and sometimes misnamed.
“My dream would be to go online and see any patient’s records that I needed to see. They would be together, well-curated, under that patient’s name/identifier. It would include GP, acute, community interventions and interactions and all correspondence. There would be click-through contact points for details of other staff involved. As a patient, my dream would be the same…”
The report also highlighted that a lot of changes to technology are designed and implemented without nursing input, often by decision makers who do not know the full extent of the duties of a nurse nor how they work.
One contributor expressed their annoyance at the way nursing staff aren’t included in the decision making process, “if we’re [nurses] not leading on the systems themselves as we can’t make informed decisions if we don’t really understand the impact. Too often it is realised after money has been spent that it’s been on the wrong things…”
Commenting on the findings of the consultation, Ross Scrivener, eHealth lead at the RCN, said:
“In the past few weeks leading up to the 70th anniversary of the NHS, we’ve heard a succession of healthcare leaders arguing that the best way to transform health and social care services in the UK is to utilise the full benefits of digital technology. But our consultation shows that that aim will remain a pipe-dream unless managers, technology providers and IT staff take more account of the views of nursing staff.
“But the single most important theme to emerge from the consultation is that involving nursing in the design and implementation of programmes and systems to improve patient care is not an optional add-on – it is absolutely vital if those systems are going to provide the benefits they’re supposed to.”
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