Use of information and communication technology in nursing services
Technology provides nurses with a new set of tools to enable and improve the nurse–patient relationship. Although not all information and communication technology is 100% accurate, it still provides the ability for readings which can be used to support the management of long-term conditions in the community. Additionally, technology can empower the patient, enabling them to take control over their condition and enable the nurses who support them. It can break down barriers, such as language and distance. However, it is not without its drawbacks. This paper considers the advantages and disadvantages of community nurses using technology.
Technology is increasingly becoming a crucial part of the day-to-day practice of a community nurse. Although the implementation of electronic systems in the UK is not standardised, so every practitioner has the same opportunities, there is a push to develop and use technology to support community nurses. Anecdotally, technology, especially mobile technology, is being used by community nurses for various purposes, including knowledge sharing, reporting and caseload planning.
The Queen's Nursing Institute’ (QNI)'s (2018) publication ‘Nursing in the digital age’ presented a picture of the ways in which information and communication technology is being used in the provision of nursing care in the community. The report highlighted that there was significant diversity around the country, as well as a range of approaches to the implementation of information technology. Systems were not fit for purpose, as the financial cost of implementing information technology services was a significant barrier. This was due to potential IT savings being realised in the medium, or even long term, rather than in the short term or being immediate. Additionally, some community nurses expressed reluctance in embracing information technology when it was deemed inefficient and not fit-for-purpose (QNI, 2018). The different systems being used were incompatible; while many information-sharing protocols were being used, the systems could not be used to their full potential due to inter-operability issues, such as out-of-date hardware and software as well as operating systems that were not able to communicate with each other. Moreover, electronic systems were not always tailored to community nurses, with unsuitable and ineffective systems from other parts of the heath service used inappropriately. Systems were found to be prone to crashing and were often very slow, leading to frustration and compelling community nurses to work with paper. Finally, connectivity was reported to be a significant barrier, and systems failed to update and/or synchronise, and programmes used for recording information failed to load (QNI, 2018).
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