Introduction Information communication technology is a tool that covers almost every aspect of modern day life and it is no wonder that the benefits derived are now ever present in the medical sector. Numerous contributions continue to be made on the subject as the use of communications technology gains a stronger foothold in the field of medicine. The spotlight focuses on issues with regard to its use by physicians and nurses alike and how it is has a significant impact on their respective professions as well as the patients.
The digital age is providing opportunities that focus on early prevention as opposed to curative medical practice. There is also the advantage of accessibility where patients are able to seek medical attention from any part of the world and physicians together with nurses can provide medical attention efficiently. At the same time reservations persist about the benefits of technology in the medical field such as confidentiality, reliability, security and the patients’ ability to use the equipment as per requirements.
Demand for nurses is on the rise and it is one of the ten fastest growing occupations in the United States. (Bureau of Labour Statistics, 2001) and with an ever increasing ageing population, every one of five people will be 65 years or older by the year 2030. (Federal Interagency Forum on Aging and Related Statistics 2000). This translates to the need for more nurses and physicians in the future. Digital Healthcare In the modern world digital healthcare is coming into its own. Cutting edge technology and communications are the key tools in service delivery, prevention and management of health conditions.
This is being facilitated through video conferencing, the Internet, store-and-forward imaging, remote monitoring, streaming media, terrestrial and wireless communications and robotics. (Stokowski, Healthcare Anywhere:The Pledge of Telehealth, 2008). Digital information and clinical diagnosis are transmitted from the client’s computer to medical facility and can be enhanced by relaying data real time especially for heart and brain disease as well as rehabilitation. This also covers biometrics.
Nursing applies the same methods in service delivery in monitoring and management of chronic diseases. There is a compendium of devices that transmit physiological data to nurses (Fairchild, 2008) which helps educate patients on how to cope with their medical conditions. Despite the challenges, overall efficiency is improved and the incidences of hospitalization are significantly reduced. The safety aspect increases because of constant monitoring and attention to the patient who is able to conduct tests on blood sugar, pulse rate and blood pressure.
According to Vasquez, it is important to refer willing patients appropriately to a telemonitoring program after being instructed on how to use the equipment. This also facilitates wound care management in remote areas. Electronic communication and telehealth is changing nursing through the use of applications. There is an increase in educational opportunities through the use of specilazed training and interaction with students all over the world. Less paper work allows the nurses to avail more time to the patients through the use of standardized reporting systems such as laptop computers.
This results in improved communication, improved workflow and improved utilization management (Kibbe, 2001) for example diabetes treatment and management data transmitted to Clombia University Web-based Clinical Information System. These solutions afford professionals right answers in th e right form at the right time or place (Detmer, 2001). Questions specific to a particular disease and questionnaires on health status assist in quick and accurate decisions including improved health.
There is increased patient input through partenships such as Setting Pririties for Retirement Years Foundation assist the aging on health, finances and independence. Patients are able to contact the nurses at any time resulting in mutual satisfaction and nurses are able to intervene early enough preventing emergencies. Some of the challenges that come with telehealth are physical set up of the system, informed consent, exchange of emails and the triage and handling of the email communication (Ohler).
The system should be based on the health and Institution Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 which takes confidentiality, location , sufficient personal details, prescription details and staff training into consideration. Another important factor to be kept in mind is response and reaction time. Access ahould be restricted to the parties concerned and legal accountability becomes sensitive when the nurse answers the call from a patient and issues advice on treatment.
There is also the grave risk of misunderstandings regarding dosage for prescriptions and licensure of nurses across different states. As in any pioneering technological approach, telehealth does have its shortcomings but the benefits far outway the few that exist. It is only a matter of time before the few remaining problems are solved. Finally, developing countries can now access medicare that has been lacking by coming to an agreement with countries like the United States in order to help eradicate, for example, HIV/AIDS pandemic.
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