Better Nursing through Wearable Technology

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Nurse and touch screenYou might wear a Fitbit to track your level of fitness, but very soon this same technology will spill over into your job. Wearable technologies are becoming more sophisticated and more precise at what can be measured.

As health care administrators weigh the costs against the benefits of these new technologies, more hospitals will adopt these devices in the workplace. And while it’s not the same as adding more staff, it will help make your job just a little bit easier.

Better staffing decisions

Wearable technology can help nurse managers coordinate and manage staff. For example, a nurse manager in the ER could receive an alert on her wrist device letting her know that a number of seriously injured people are en route. She could then track down trauma specialists by looking at a map on her computer screen and quickly mobilize them to be ready for the influx of patients. The specialists would be wearing RFID chips in their ID badges that help track their location.

A hospital in Florida has been using this tracking technology for several years, reporting improvements in managing staff resources, according to a CNN article.

And just as patients have pulse and respiration rates measured, soon nurses may have their vital signs monitored as a way to tell if they’re too tired to work. This technology could be in the form of a bracelet or sensor sewn into a nurse’s clothing. These sensors would monitor a nurse’s fatigue level, and a nurse manager would be able to send a nurse home or on a rest break before the nurse makes a mistake.

Improved patient care

Wearable technology already has made inroads. Some examples:

Google Glass: In the near future, nurses may be wearing Google Glass for hands-free access to a patient’s health history in the blink of an eye. Doctors and nurses at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston already use Google Glass in the hospital’s emergency department and operating room. Indiana University Health Methodist Hospital, Rhode Island Hospital, UC Irvine Medical Center and Yale New Haven Health System are also piloting the Google Glass technology in a clinical setting, according to an article in NurseZone.com.

Gait trackers: Wearable technology for patients is evolving from head to toe, from beanies that monitor concussions to socks that measure a person’s gait. Tracking gait is important because a change in an elderly person’s gait could signal a decline in health. This information could alert a home health nurse to schedule an in-home visit for assessment. Having access to more information will help nurses prioritize care for their patients remotely as well as in the hospital.

HealthKit: A number of U.S hospitals, including the Mayo Clinic, have implemented Apple’s HealthKit tool in a pilot program to track patients’ health metrics at home. Wearable technologies such as these help monitor a patient’s recovery as they transition from the hospital to home care. Hospitals are open to investing in their technologies if they prove to reduce the need for hospital readmissions.

Vein viewers: And it will soon be easier to draw blood or start an IV drip. A company called Evena has developed glasses that allow nurses to see through a patient’s skin to the blood veins underneath, according to an article in Fast Company. The glasses give a real-time view of a patient’s veins through 3D imaging technology, and should save time and reduce pain from unsuccessful attempts to insert a needle.

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