Department: Guest editorial
One of the most enjoyable aspects of my job is that it allows me to keep up with advances in technology. Nurses are impacted by technology each day—the learning curve can be steep as technology gets more sophisticated and becomes further embedded in our workflow. Technology and informatics work hand in hand, and we have little choice but to embrace these changes and apply them to our work to optimize patient care.
What are the hot, new technologies coming in 2014? Number one is mobile technology. We all use mobile devices and applications in our personal lives, so it comes as no surprise that they're also penetrating healthcare. In many cases, clinicians are bringing their own mobile devices into the workplace and expecting to use them for patient care purposes. As a result, hospitals and health systems must urgently define policies and communicate expectations about their use, and safeguards must be put in place to manage the necessary privacy and security requirements.
Mobile health advances are also accelerating the pace and importance of patient and family engagement to optimally manage patient health. Activity and sleep trackers, smart scales, and similar personal devices empower consumers to better understand the impact of lifestyle choices on their health and fitness. These same individuals will expect nurses to be knowledgeable about reliable mobile health applications and how to use them. Today, health information can be accessed via patient portals through mobile devices—anywhere, at any time. For example, mobile health diagnostic tools are available for providers who want portable, easy-to-use devices for dermatologic evaluation, optometric tests, and blood oxygen testing. It's obvious that mobile health is rapidly carving out its own innovative space in the healthcare landscape.
Cloud computing is another technology that's gaining in popularity and use in healthcare. As we look to the future, the personal cloud will take form, marking a shift away from devices toward services. A collection of devices will be used to make up this personal cloud, with the PC being only one of many options for the primary hub. Cloud computing can accelerate connections between primary care providers and other healthcare settings, such as the home. Wireless devices can provide real-time data to the cloud, where they're captured. With appropriate security safeguards in place, the data can be accessed from the cloud for individual care, as well as included in a broader database available for evidence-based practice. Also, hospitals and health systems will be able to link with state governments through the cloud to manage health information, including health insurance exchanges.
Last, but hardly least, a new generation of smart machines and devices is catapulting us into the future. For nurses, smart devices offer access to technology to support clinical decision making and contribute to a more efficient workflow, such as enabling data from devices to automatically populate the electronic health record and vice versa.
Although technologic advances are inevitable, exciting, and important, we have a responsibility to ensure they're implemented in the correct way to improve, rather than compromise, patient care and positively impact workflow. If we constructively leverage new innovations, we'll accelerate progress toward enhancing the delivery of healthcare and, ultimately, improve our nation's health.