July 24, 2024
Information tech allows nurses to focus on patients instead of paperwork

From remote patient monitoring to robotic assistance, advances in technology and healthcare have converged to make this an exciting and empowering time for nurses.

Per the American Nurses Association, some of the key ways technology impacts the nursing profession in 2024 are: empowering patients with greater and quicker access to their health information and decreasing the risk of burnout by streamlining processes.

Information tech allows nurses to focus on patients instead of paperwork
Ventura

When it comes to technology and nursing today, “There’s so much excitement,” according to Rosemary Ventura, DNP, RN-BC, Chief Nursing Information Officer (CNIO) at the University of Rochester Medical Center. “Everyone is excited about how we can leverage these new tools and new technologies to impact our practice.”

Ventura’s position is an example of the ever-increasing role technology is playing in the nursing profession. She was named UR Medicine’s first CNIO in 2019 after serving in the same position at New York-Presbyterian.

When Ventura earned her master’s degree in nursing informatics and first started in the field, she says informatics was focused primarily on converting paper records to electronic records; today it is so much more.

“Over those past 20 years, we’ve gone from very paper-based processes to an entire world as clinicians that is based in a foundation of technology,” Ventura said. “This has completely changed how we practice as nurses as well as how we practice as providers and how patients participate in their health care. It’s really a different world.”

An example of this under Ventura’s charge at UR Medicine is the health system’s recent launch of a ninety-day virtual nursing pilot program in the emergency department of its FF Thompson Hospital in Canandaigua, Ontario County.

A type of telemedicine, virtual nurses, according to the American Nurses Association, “Can support the team at the bedside to alleviate the workload and provide greater satisfaction for both the patients and the nursing staff.”

At FF Thompson Hospital virtual nurses help with the discharge process, which can often involve a wait by patients even after a provider has ordered the discharge because nurses needed to complete the discharge and important educational component of it are busy attending to other patients.

“In this case, we can quickly have the virtual nurse go through that discharge content with the patient much more thoroughly and give more time to the patient because they’re really only focused on that,” said Ventura, underscoring how this technology can help improve patient education.

Ventura is hopeful that the pilot will lead to a scaling of the program across the UR Medicine enterprise and also increase the tasks that virtual nurses can assist with in an effort not only to increase patient care and education, but also help with cognitive burden and burnout in the nursing profession.

She attributes some of that cognitive burden to the amount of documentation requirements nurses are required to complete today.

“It weighs on the wellness of our staff and so we’re working on developing tools to facilitate making documentation less burdensome because, at the end of the day, everyone can agree we would rather have those nurses taking care of patients,” Ventura said.

Collins

At Rochester Regional Health (RRH), Joe Collins, RN, MBA, is one of six nurse informaticists who helps his fellow nurses learn how to use technology at its maximum capacity and glean data to help everyone involved in patient care make informed decisions.

The position for nurse informaticist at RRH was created about a year and a half ago to help keep pace with this evolution of nursing, which he calls “incredible” in terms of volume and rate of innovative technology.

Macias-Hoag

“Without nursing informatics providing us data, it’s really hard to change nursing practice and as nurses, just like providers, we want to see the data to inform our decisions,” said Annette Macias-Hoag, DNP, RN, executive vice president, chief nursing and patient care officer for RRH.

RRH’s informatics team recently helped implement the use of Rover, a small handheld interface to the Epic clinical information system that allows nurses to document things like vital signs more quickly and efficiently. Rover eliminates the need to bring a big computer into the room or write notes down on a piece of paper to input into a desktop computer at a central location later.

“Previously, when they would have to go back to a computer to document everything they just did, they would break out their piece of paper that they wrote all their stuff on and it could take about an hour,” Collins said. “With Rover, we have seen a decrease all the way down to five to six minutes.”

Collins says that not only does this change give nurses more time to spend on patient-focused tasks, but it also gets valuable information to clinicians sooner, which can enhance patient care.

Other ways RRH is integrating technology with nursing include the creation of a new nursing orientation and education app — a collaboration with computer science students from the Rochester Institute of Technology — and the continued growth of its use of robotics.

Last year RRH began using Moxi robots equipped with machine learning technology and sensors to help nurses with non-patient-facing tasks, like delivering lab samples and picking up medications from the in-hospital pharmacy.

There are currently eight Moxi robots in use within the RRH system and Macias-Hoag notes they have been well received and are a great help to nurses, as well as laboratory and pharmacy staff, allowing them to focus more time on patient care.

RRH is also preparing for a virtual nursing pilot focused on the discharge process that will begin in June in a handful of units across the system, including Rochester General Hospital, Unity Hospital and its St. Lawrence Health hospitals.

“Our pharmacists and our nurses will be able to remote into the room and have discussions and feedback with patients so hopefully they retain that education a lot better,” said Collins, who explained one of the biggest goals of the pilot is fewer readmissions and improved follow-up in the outpatient setting.

The virtual nursing project could also help keep nurses with “tremendous knowledge” who are considering retiring in the RRH system by offering a work opportunity that is less physically demanding but still important to patient care and education, Macias-Hoag said.

This is a particularly timely and important topic since the median age of RNs is the U.S. is 46 and over one-quarter of RN’s report that they plan to leave nursing or retire over the next five years, according to recent figures by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.

Caurie Putnam is a Rochester-area freelance writer.

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