Technological advancements have changed the way people do their jobs by improving the accuracy of outcomes, the effectiveness of work activities, and individual performance (Carter, 2001). Nursing is a professional field that has benefited from advances in technology through the incorporation of innovation in the manufacture of medical devices and system software (Pooler, Tamparo, & Dahl, 2007). For instance, the process of delivering medical care to patients has changed significantly and the management of clinical workflow has been streamlined. Nursing technology comprises components such as software, medical devices, and management systems that are developed to speed up operations and reduce the amount of time spent completing certain tasks (Skolnik, 2010). Technological advancements help nurses increase their productivity, accuracy of diagnosis, patient safety, reduce medical errors, and safeguard patient records in order to prevent unauthorized access (Carter, 2001). Technology is an important component in nursing because it improves patient safety and accuracy of patient care, increases the efficiency of medical practitioners, streamlines the coordination of patient care, and enhances communication between patients and their caregivers.
Types of nursing technology
Innovation has led to the introduction of an array of technologies that have improved provision of medical care. Examples of nursing technologies include real time locating systems (RTLS), tablet computers, mobile charts, electronic medical record (EMR) systems, genetics and genomics, 3-D printing, biometrics, robotics, and intravenous devices (Carter, 2001). A technological advancement that has changed the nursing practice is the electronic medical record (EMR) system. This technology has improved nursing in many ways including the delivery of patient care, tracking of patient progress during treatment, and reduction of medical errors during diagnosis and medication (Pooler et. al, 2007).
Electronic medical record
An electronic medical record (EMR) is collection of electronic health information regarding a patient or patient population detailing several treatment aspects. EMRs contain a wide range of data such as medical history, health complications such as allergies, personal information such as age, weight, and blood pressure, laboratory test results, financial records, address, and type of medication administered (Carter, 2001). An EMR system is designed in a way that enables it to store and relay patient information accurately and quickly. A nurse can track down the medical history of a specific patient without the need to explore the patient’s previous medical records. EMRs have changed the nursing practice significantly because before the incorporation of technology into the medical field, patient information was recorded and stored on hand written documents. Storing and retrieving the documents was difficult and was associated with numerous errors that affected the processes of providing medical care and tracking patient recovery progress (Pooler et. al, 2007). EMR systems have pros and cons that have elicited debates among opposing sides regarding their effectiveness. Despite the raging debates regarding the importance and effectiveness of EMRs, they have changed nursing practice in several ways.
Advantages of EMR
Electronic medical records have several advantages that include reduction of medical errors during treatment, improved patient care and safety, increased efficiency due to information consolidation, improved diagnostics and patient outcomes, and enhanced care coordination (Carter, 2001). Before the incorporation of technology in the health care sector, patient data was stored in hand written documents that were difficult to store and retrieve. The documents presented several challenges because of illegibility, poor storage, and misplacement. The introduction of EMR systems eradicated these challenges and reduced medical errors because of proper storage. Nurses can retrieve patient information quickly and in the form in which it was stored without any form of distortion that could compromise patient care (Pooler et. al, 2007).
EMRs improve patient care in several ways. They provide health care practitioners with a method to access patient information quickly and accurately (Menachemi & Collum, 2011). Therefore, they reduce delays. The records can be accessed from different locations within a short time. This efficiency enhances decision support by providing clinical alerts, patient information, and reminders in due time. The system also enables nurses to improve their performance by providing an effective platform for real-time reporting and information sharing (Pooler et. al, 2007). EMRs also allow practitioners to connect with other departments such as registries, pharmacies, and laboratories for easy access to important information. They enhance the storage of records in a manner that improves the accuracy of patient information for speedy and accurate billing, coding, diagnosis, and evaluation (Menachemi & Collum, 2011). The system improves patient care by providing patents with an interface through which they can interact with their caregivers in case complications or medical issues arise. In addition, the make the process of evaluating a patient’s progress easy and fast. Finally, the efficiency of the system improves decision making because medical practitioners can retrieve any piece of information they need on a particular patient at any time without delay (Pooler et. al, 2007).
Patient participation is an important aspect of nursing practice. EMRs provide a platform for patients and care providers to interact and address issues that arise during the course of treatment (Ventura, Zorloni, Abbiati & Farina, 2011). Conditions such as diabetes, asthma, and cardiovascular diseases require patients to actively participate in the treatment and management of their conditions. EMRs increase patient participation by ensuring that nurses provide high-quality care and creating an avenue through which patients and caregivers can communicate on a regular basis. Prompt communication between patients and nurses improves the quality of medical care because symptoms and complications can be detected easily and early (Ventura et. al, 2011).
EMRs improve diagnostics and patient outcomes because of easy access to accurate patient information in a timely manner (Pooler et. al, 2007). Better patient outcomes result from accurate diagnosis and medication, which are achieved through easy access to information at points of care, coordination of patient information, and information sharing among different departments. EMRs improve diagnosis by providing reliable access to patient information, medical reports, lab results, and accurate medical histories of patients (Menachemi & Collum, 2011). They also reduce human errors and improve patient safety by computing information on various treatment aspects. EMR systems are designed to check and determine the effectiveness of different types of medication administered to patients. In case new a medication causes complications, they system informs the care provider. In addition, it exposes potential safety risks by analyzing information collected from various sources (Menachemi & Collum, 2011). This improves patient outcomes. EMRs improve risk management by supporting therapeutic decisions, enhancing decision making processes, improving the analysis and transfer of patient information, and aggregating patient information in one place (Ventura et. al, 2011).
Another advantage o EMRs is that they improve medical practice effectiveness and reduce costs of health care. Reduction of cost is attributed to automation of records provided by the system as well as reduction in the time that nurses spend on certain tasks (Ventura et. al, 2011). In addition, reduced medical errors lower costs because medical practitioners are able to receive alerts in a timely manner and respond to emergencies without delay. EMRs improve medical practice effectiveness by providing fast and reliable access to information, enhancing communication between patients and nurses, and improving the processes of formulary checks and patient evaluations (Ventura et. al, 2011). Automating patient records eradicates costs that were previously associated with filing, storing, and maintaining hand written records (Menachemi & Collum, 2011). The time that was spent doing paperwork is now spent on other tasks that improve the outcomes of patient care. In many medical centers, activities such as filling out patient forms and billing forms are very costly and time consuming. EMRs streamline these activities and reduce related costs.
Disadvantages of EMRs
Despite the aforementioned advantages, electronic medical records have disadvantages that include privacy concerns, possible data loss, high startup cost, and lack of standardized system architecture (Ventura et. al, 2011). One of the challenges of using EMRs is the issue of who can access patient information (Menachemi & Collum, 2011). Storage of information in digital form makes it easy to share or access information from a database. In past years, many cases of security bleaches have been reported in hospital databases. This challenge can be addressed by developing complex security protocols that are known only to systems’ administrators (Skolnik, 2010). Sharing medical information without the consent of the patient is both illegal and unethical. Identity theft can happen in case of unauthorized access to patient information. Data loss is another disadvantage of EMRs (Skolnik, 2010). A computer crash could lead to complete loss of information from a database. This could jeopardize the provision of patient care in case there was no backup for the information. This challenge is usually overcome by putting in place a backup plan to address cases of data loss. Technology advancements have made this possible through the development of cloud computing. Cloud computing makes it possible to store information safely and prevent any form of loss (Skolnik, 2010). Many medical facilities find it difficult to fund the implementation of EMR systems because of the need to cut costs. Transforming hand written documents into the digital form is expensive and as such, many practitioners avoid it. Finally, lack of standardized system architecture makes it difficult to synchronize EMRs with other systems for improved information coordination (Menachemi & Collum, 2011). This challenge is overcome by employing software vendors to develop standard language for specific systems in order to improve their flexibility.
The benefits of EMRs outweigh the disadvantages. Therefore, medical practitioners and health institutions should embrace them in order to improve their service delivery. Technology is an important aspect of life in contemporary society. Incorporating it in the medical field is imperative because of its many benefits. Medical practitioners need to have quick and reliable access to patient information. In addition, they should be able to share information with other practitioners in different departments flawlessly. EMRs provide solutions to the various challenges that nurses face with regard to providing quality patient care.
Advances in technology have changed the nursing practice in various ways. An important piece of technology that has changed the profession significantly is the EMR. An electronic medical record refers to a collection of patient information in a database from where it can be easily accessed, updated, and shared. EMRs have several advantages that include reduction of medical errors, improved patient care and safety, increased efficiency due to information consolidation, improved diagnostics and patient outcomes, and enhanced care coordination. On the other hand, disadvantages include possibility of security bleaches, data loss, and high startup costs. Technology is an important aspect of life in contemporary society. It s imperative for the health care sectors to embrace it in order to improve patient care, increase effectiveness, and reduce costs of health care services.
Carter, J. (2001). Electronic Medical Records: A Guide for Clinicians and Administrators. New York, NY: ABC Press.
Menachemi, N., & Collum, T. (2011). Benefits and Drawbacks of Electronic Health Record Systems. Risk Management Health Policy, 4, 47-55.
Pooler, M., Tamparo, C., & Dahl, B. (2007). Administrative Medical Assisting. New York, NY: Cengage Learning.
Skolnik, N. (2010). Electronic Medical Records: A Practical Guide for Primary Care. New York, NY: Springer.
Ventura, M., Zorloni, C., Abbiati, L., & Farina, S. (2011). The Electronic Medical Record: Pros and Cons. Journal of Maternal-fetal, & Neonatal Medicine, 1, 163-166.