Advances in technology benefitting nursing care

Filed under: Health Care |

Technology helps nurses improve patient care and allows them more time at patients’ bedsides, according to a study conducted by Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society Analytics.

The study included interviews with nurses from throughout the United States and showed that they found point-of-care technology allowed them more access to information, decreased response time and an overall reduction in the time to process orders.

“One of the greater challenges with integrating point-of-care technology into a health care facility can often reside with the end-users feeling comfortable with the tools,” said Dave Garets, president and CEO of HIMSS Analytics. “Our findings from this study clearly show that nurses benefit significantly when point-of-care technologies work seamlessly with their practice patterns and environment, provide immediate access to information and create a better experience for the patients.”

According to the findings, the nurses felt that the increased time spent at the bedside was a result of mobile technology, which has reduced the need to retrieve patient charts from medical records prior to care, and spending less time going to and from a stationary computer at the nursing station.

Motion Computing also has conducted dozens of focus groups that corroborate the study’s results.

“As automation of clinical documentation becomes more pervasive, each clinical participant — from nurses charting to physicians reviewing vitals and entering orders — derives more practical value from point-of-care technologies and can work more effectively as a connected member of the patient care team,” said Joel French, vice president of Motion Computing and general manager of its Healthcare Business Group. “One of the critical dependencies to reaching this state is a great end-user experience.”

The survey showed some challenges to including technology at the bedside and at nurses’ stations, however. The problems included proper training to support the integration and use; problems with using both computerized and paper-based medical charts; and the need to upgrade wireless networks to support new technology.

“Nurses prefer to maintain eye contact with patients while charting, with no physical barrier such as a laptop clamshell or the requirement to turn their backs to enter information,” the survey said.

Treasurer wants to protect health care services

Colorado State Treasurer Cary Kennedy has proposed a legislative change that would protect money for health care services that might be reduced because of a drop in tobacco settlement revenue.

Payments from the settlement are expected to drop by as much as $20 million next year because of a dispute about what tobacco companies owe Colorado — threatening many state and local health care programs that cater to the poor and disadvantaged.

Current laws do not allow the state to spend the $18.7 million expected as part of the Strategic Fund Payment until 2008, despite the fact that the money is available.

“Families and children in need of health care services can’t wait for years,” Kennedy said. She has proposed legislation to change the timing of when the Strategic Fund Payment can be spent. “By allowing these funds to be spent in the same year in which they’re received, we can fill the shortfall.”

Under current statute, the funds received from the tobacco settlement are spent during the following year.

USAA donates child safety seats

Memorial Health System and Peak Vista Community Health Centers have received $40,000 from the USAA Foundation to purchase child safety seats.

Each year, more than 6,000 children under the age of 5 die in auto crashes, and child safety seats could prevent 70 percent of those deaths.

During the past two years, more than 1,000 safety and booster seats have been provided to families in the Pikes Peak region.

Nursing shortage harms home health industry

Without significant changes in recruiting and training nurses, the home health care industry could suffer billion-dollar losses.

A Wyatt Matas and Associates study analyzed skilled home health care industry visits per patient statistics and compared them with anticipated demand during the next 15 years. The study shows that the industry could face a 40 percent shortfall in available nurses.

“Some of our clients in rural markets have been experiencing lower operating margins due to higher labor and recruiting costs,” said Chip Measells, partner at Wyatt Matas & Associates. “In turn, these lower margins have impacted the valuations of those considering selling their agencies. We felt it was necessary to dig deeper into the cause of the trend and determine what the impact of the shortage has been and what it will be on the industry as a whole. The home health care industry continues to see plenty of potential for growth, and the increasing demand for the service is impressive. Determining if the industry will be able to meet the demand is perplexing.”

The shortage of nurses could cause the industry to lose more than $4 billion in potential market value, the equivalent of the combined market capitalization of the current top five largest home care companies, the survey said.

Amy Gillentine covers health care for the Colorado Springs Business Journal