How has technology changed healthcare and nursing practice

Technology is changing every aspect of our lives, and healthcare is no exception. Technological innovations have significantly impacted the medical field, with several novel tools and techniques being developed to improve healthcare delivery. These tools range from electronic records to telemedicine, medical devices, and wearable technology, to name a few.

As the most extensive career path in the healthcare industry, it’s no surprise that the nursing practice has also benefited massively from technology. Today, nurses can explore several avenues to improve patient safety and outcomes, enhance communication, reduce workload, and foster better efficiency.

In truth, technology has played a role in the medical field for some time. And while it began with basic applications such as quills and ink, it has grown today to be an integral aspect of healthcare delivery, from diagnosis to treatment. As such, we explore how technology has altered healthcare, focusing squarely on nursing practice.

Technology in healthcare

The history of technology in the healthcare industry has been characterized by massive developments and innovations that have significantly improved the diagnosis and treatment of illnesses. While technology was always a part of healthcare, the breakthrough came in the early 20th century with the development of X-ray machines.

The years that followed saw the introduction and development of antibiotics, which revolutionized the treatment of infections and other computerized diagnostic machines. Computed tomography (CT) scanners and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are some innovations that highlighted technology’s impact on healthcare in the late 20th century.

The use of computers in healthcare began to emerge in the late 20th century through shared systems. And as minicomputers became more ubiquitous, so did their application in various facets of healthcare, from hospital administration to clinical processes and healthcare automation.

Overall, the history of technology in healthcare has resulted in several advancements that have significantly improved the well-being of patients and the efficacy of medical treatments. And with time comes more unique innovations that help support medical professionals and ensure optimum healthcare delivery.

Prevalent technological applications in healthcare

The impact of technology is apparent, yet, technophobia continues to be commonplace in the healthcare sector, as is the case in every sector of the economy. However, despite these fears, technology has proven to be the only way forward, with a majority population believing the potential of technological advances in aiding and enhancing life. These beliefs are underlined further by the tremendous rewards the human and tech partnership has and continues to reap.

Digital technology in nursing practice could improve inadequate healthcare systems, providing cheaper, faster, and more effective healthcare delivery and fostering a better relationship between nurses and medical patients. However, most still need to learn how this partnership would look in practice. Therefore, we examine a few prevalent technological applications shaping the medical field.

  • Artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence is a powerful tool that looks to wholly transform the healthcare sector. This innovation has fostered the automation and computerization of most medical practices, from mining medical records to developing personalized treatment plans, recommending medications quicker and more effectively, and even diagnosing underlying medical conditions, such as cancerous tissues.

The level of automation fostered by artificial intelligence has also proven helpful in nursing practice. First, the automation of routine tasks reduces the workload on nurses and allows them to focus on more critical responsibilities, such as patient care. AI can also assist nurses by providing accurate and updated information about patients and enhancing patient care. Overall, artificial intelligence helps to streamline several processes and improve nursing professionals’ efficiency.

Google and Atomwise are some of the numerous companies driving AI in healthcare. From improving digital imaging to synthesizing more effective drugs and mining medical records, these companies epitomize what the future holds regarding AI in healthcare.

  • Virtual reality

Similar to artificial intelligence, virtual reality has also shown the potential to be very important and has a wide range of potential applications in healthcare and nursing practice.

Remote treatments are possible with the help of virtual reality. Nursing professionals are now training to employ this innovation in remotely examining patients, gathering essential information about their condition, and providing rehabilitation and treatment for those unable to leave their homes.

Another general application of VR is in medical education and training. Obviously, technology has changed education more than we can imagine, and VR sets the bar even higher. Medical students can explore immersive training experiences, allowing them to develop and practice skills and techniques in a high-stress, high-risk simulated environment.

Virtual reality touches every aspect of healthcare, from improving patient care and outcome to enhancing the skill and knowledge of nurses. That said, VR remains in its early stages of development, and it’s still being determined the extent to which it will be adopted in medical practices.

  • Electronic health record

The advent of digital technology has had a crucial impact on healthcare and continues to play an increasingly important role. This impact is underpinned through applications such as electronic health records (EHR), which has proven to be a significant turning point in how medical records and data are handled.

Electronic health records are digital versions of a patient’s medical records and history, including demographics, allergies, medications, previous tests, and medical history. Representing critical patient records in a digital form helps to improve patient care through data-centric decisions on treatment. Furthermore, EHRs can save time and mitigate the risks of errors associated with paper-based records, thereby improving healthcare efficiency.

Considering other characteristics of electronic health records, such as cost-effectiveness, it’s apparent how important this tool is for improving the quality and efficiency of healthcare.

  • Trackers, wearables, and sensors

A significant goal of the future of healthcare and medicine is making it more patient-centric and empowering individuals to actively participate in their health and well-being using wearables, sensors, and trackers. These intelligent devices are worn on the body to monitor several health metrics and give us more information and control over our lives.

Aside from personalized information, the responsibilities of medical professionals, such as nurses, become more streamlined as they can obtain vital insights into a patient’s health without having to carry out a physical examination. These include tracking their physical activities, monitoring sleep, tracking patients’ vitals, and recognizing potential health issues early.

Trackers, wearables, and sensors have improved healthcare by providing individuals and medical professionals with critical information about their health and fostering informed decisions regarding their well-being.

  • Telemedicine

Telemedicine is another brainchild of digital technology that has helped to create a wide availability of healthcare in every nook of the globe. Telemedicine employs telecommunication and information technologies, such as computers and mobile devices, to provide clinical healthcare, primarily to regions that do not have easy access to these services.

Since its inception in the industry, nurses and other medical professionals have employed telemedicine in facilitating several services, from consultation to diagnosis, treatment plans, rehabilitation, and follow-up visits. With about half of the world’s population lacking essential healthcare, especially in underdeveloped countries, telemedicine is a convenient and cost-effective solution to quality medical care in these underserved regions.

  • Nanotechnology

Nanotechnology is the study and use of matter, usually on atomic, molecular, and supramolecular levels, for several industrial and medical purposes. For now, it is difficult to quantify the prevalence of nanotechnology in healthcare as it remains a new and rapidly developing field. However, medical professionals use nanotech for several applications, and its application is projected to continue as the field advances.

Today, some drug delivery systems employ nanoparticles to deliver medications to specific cells and tissues in the body, increasing treatment effectiveness and reducing adverse side effects. The nanoparticle-based diagnostic tool is another significant application of nanotech, which helps to detect diseases at an early stage, allowing for early treatment and improved outcomes.

Other applications of nanotech in healthcare include developing tissue engineering products and other medical devices that help improve patient outcomes and advance the field of medicine.

  • Online education

Digital technology has also been beneficial in improving the availability of education, specifically regarding healthcare-related degrees and programs. Today, it’s increasingly convenient for individuals to obtain medical degrees online and pursue or further their careers. This enables students to study remotely from any location, provides several learning resources, and learn at any time.

Students looking to transition their careers to nursing can explore Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degrees online such as those offered by Elmhurst University. These programs provide a comprehensive and fast-paced pathway to break into the nursing profession. Furthermore, the availability of online education for healthcare professionals has eliminated the need to commute and made top class tuition available anywhere.

  • Robotics

One of the fastest-growing and most exciting technological fields has also impacted the healthcare industry. As with other automation applications, robotics has the potential to improve the efficiency, accuracy, and accessibility of medical care. Today, several robots have been developed to engage in different medical responsibilities, from surgical to rehabilitation, telemedicine, laboratory, and pharmacy automation robots.

Regarding nursing practice, robots help improve patient care, increase nurses’ efficiency, reduce the risk of injury to nurses and other healthcare workers, and enhance training opportunities. Furthermore, healthcare providers employ robots in several healthcare settings, including hospitals, clinics, rehabilitation, and nursing institutions.

Ways technology has impacted healthcare and nursing practice.

These technological applications have significantly impacted healthcare and continue to transform healthcare delivery in several ways. However, we can highlight these impacts through five vital characteristics;

  • Accessibility

Seamless accessibility is an essential aspect of quality healthcare as it enables people to receive preventive and other necessary medical care, which helps to improve quality of life and increase life expectancy. Yet, much of the world’s population lacks access to quality healthcare.

However, as a direct result of technology, healthcare is much more accessible than ever. Innovations such as telemedicine help patients connect with doctors, specialists, and other medical professionals worldwide. This easy accessibility allows for quicker diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions.

  • Efficiency

As with every other tech-powered industry, technology has made healthcare more efficient. By automating several medical tasks, technology has accelerated the healthcare delivery process. For instance, using digital records makes it possible for medical professionals to quickly access patient information from anywhere in the world.

The level of efficiency brought about by the rise in tech has also impacted the accessibility of healthcare. Today, telemedicine, wearables, remote learning, and online medical institutions allow patients and medical professionals to save time and energy while engaging in medical processes. All in all, technology has made healthcare more efficient and accessible for everyone.

  • Accuracy

Accuracy is one of healthcare’s most critical aspects because it can directly impact patient outcomes. The accuracy of healthcare diagnosis and treatment improves patients’ chances of positive effects. Consecutively, errors and inappropriate treatments can adversely affect patients, resulting in harm or even death.

Employing technology in medical practices has improved accuracy by providing healthcare workers with new avenues for diagnosing and treating patients. Diagnostic tools such as MRIs and CT scans allow doctors to diagnose patients more accurately. Furthermore, these medical devices help to mitigate the risks of human errors.

  • Personalized experience

Personalized healthcare is increasingly being adopted in several medical fields and remains an effective strategy to deliver quality healthcare and improve patient outcomes. Customized healthcare, also known as precision medicine, incorporates medical decisions, practices, and treatments tailored to a particular patient. These practices take into account the specific characteristics and needs of patients.

Technology has helped to make healthcare more personalized through tools and techniques that allow patients to play an active role in their health. It also fosters a more collaborative relationship between doctors and patients, allowing them to enjoy a more personalized healthcare experience. Today, patients no longer have to settle for a generalized treatment approach to their health.

  • Cost-effectiveness

Finally, technology has made healthcare cheaper than in previous eras. Medical procedures that previously incurred costly medical bills are so ubiquitous today that they require a fraction of the cost. For instance, developments in diagnostic tools have resulted in major reductions in the price of such procedures.

Overall, technology’s impact on healthcare’s cost-effectiveness depends on how it is used and the exact context in which it is employed. In some cases, it may have less effect; however, in most scenarios, it results in significant cost savings.

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