Making a Connection: Balancing Technology and Person-Centered Care
When the healthcare industry shifted its focus from volume to value, healthcare providers turned to technology to help them provide care in a safer, more efficient way. Today, healthcare and technology are inexorably connected.
Technology has the power to connect healthcare professionals to an expansive database of vital health information through electronic health records (EHR). Patient portals and video chats grant access to a patient in a rural community to their care team in the big city.
Thanks to the development of new, innovative technologies, great strides have been made in eliminating preventable harm to patients and improving safety for both patients and healthcare professionals.
For example, EHRs allow for the seamless transition of care for patients between different care teams. If a patient comes into the emergency room and is unable to speak for themselves, healthcare professionals can pull up an EHR to find out what allergies a patient has, any medications they are taking and the extended medical history of the patient – all at the touch of a button. When time is of the essence, technology can make all the difference when it comes to providing safe and continued care to patients.
Although technology offers many benefits to both patients and healthcare providers, it should not be a substitute for personalized attention.
Nurses Balance Technology and Care
Equipped to connect the dots between the variables that affect a patient’s wellness – habits, physical condition, mental and emotional state, and family background – nurses need to balance the benefits of technology with the human needs of their patients. Healthcare is always evolving and in order to continue to provide person-centered care to patients, nurses must not only stay up-to-date on the latest technology but also learn how to use that technology in conjunction with person-centered care.
Patient portals and live video chats between nurses and patients are an excellent example of the integration of technology into today's healthcare landscape.
Through these portals and live chats, nurses provide continuous patient education and check-in opportunities, which helps increase patient compliance with at-home instructions, reduces the rate of readmission and allows the patient better access to care, no matter where they are located.
When it comes to care, patients should always remain the primary focus, whereas technology should be used as a tool to help support person centered care. Research has shown that when medical professionals sit and talk to the patients versus standing, patients report a more positive interaction and gain a better understanding of their condition. When speaking with patients, nurses should sit and make eye contact with their patient, not with a screen. By giving patients undivided attention, nurses gain a deeper understanding of the patient’s physical and emotional health, which may result in improved outcomes for that patient.
But even the most experienced nurses can be distracted by technology, focusing more on inputting patient data or reading test results off of a tablet than connecting with the patient. However, best practices dictate that healthcare professionals should not turn their backs to the patient when entering information into the HER and look at the patient, not the screen, when discussing the patient’s treatment or results.
Providing Care Requires Commitment to Lifelong Learning
Effectively balancing technology with person-centered care requires a commitment to lifelong learning – not only understanding how the newest technology works but also learning the current best practices for balancing patient care with that latest technology. Extraordinary nurse educators understand that simply training students how to use the latest technology is not enough. Students must also learn how keep that personal connection with patients while being connected to technology.
Therefore, it is important that we teach future nurses how technology should be used to engage patients and families throughout the care process and help increase efficiency in the way information is shared between interdisciplinary care teams.
Care teams often turn to nurse informatics specialists to understand these best practices and how to best use new technology. Nurse informatics specialists are an integral part of the healthcare delivery process and support safe, high-quality and patient-centered care.
Technology, when used with person-centered care in mind, has the potential to streamline information sharing, allowing teams of nurses, doctors, patients and other healthcare professionals to collaborate seamlessly together. By utilizing the latest technology, reinforced by nursing support and person-centered care, patients and healthcare professionals can experience the benefits that technology brings while keeping the focus on what’s most important – the patient.