If you’re not a member of the healthcare community, then you might not be aware of a quiet crisis creeping up on hospitals all over the country: not enough nurses and too many patients. This trend is partially fueled by the Baby Boomers who are reaching old age. Baby Boomer nurses are beginning to retire, leaving a shortfall of skilled and experienced healthcare providers. The Boomer generation as a whole requires more medical care as they enter their 60s and 70s.
Complex problems like the nursing shortage require creative solutions. Training more nurses quickly isn’t a viable solution for hospitals trying to keep up with the volume of new patients. The unfolding key is in harnessing the power of technology.
Artificial intelligence, robotics, and big data have all advanced immensely in the last few years, and these tools are being used in healthcare to help ensure that all patients receive high-quality care.
Here are four key insights about big data and robotics in hospitals — and how they’re transforming nursing as we know it.
Big Data and Robotics Help Patients Stay Out of the Doctor’s Office
Many older patients fear the day that they’ll have to move into a nursing home because they can’t safely live by themselves. They might need to go in for checkups and follow-ups on a regular basis for monitoring. Constant “in-house” monitoring leads to unnecessary costs and hassle for seniors.
These days, many healthcare institutions are using the power of technology to help patients stay in their homes and out of the hospital. Big data and the Internet of Things have advanced to allow remote monitoring for patients in their own homes. Entrepreneurs taking the helm of app building for healthcare usage will be able to take a massive load off of the healthcare system. But the operation of apps will have to step up their collective game in this field.
Sensors, apps, video chat, and other data-based healthcare tools allow nurses, doctors, and loved ones to monitor patients outside of the hospital. The FDA approved the adoption of a swallow-able pill — a digital smart pill — that stays in the system — monitoring any medications that are prescribed. These digital pills also keep track of over the counter vitamins and supplements. These types of implementations are giving all patients a more independent success rate — and better overall outcomes.
Robots are Making Nurses’ Jobs Easier and Safer
Although robotic nurses are currently in use mostly in parts of Asia, the potential uses for these machines all over the world are staggering. The industry is growing quickly and is expected to reach $2.8 billion in revenue globally by 2021. For now, nursing robots’ primary job is making nurses’ jobs more comfortable and safer so they can focus on what matters.
In healthcare, the robot’s role is to take over tedious, time-consuming, and dangerous or dirty jobs for nurses. Very few nurses dream of sanitizing equipment or dispensing medication when they enter nursing school. They want to be working directly with patients, healing the sick and providing the human-touch and support. Robots can take over the most menial tasks, freeing up time for human nurses so they can care for more patients.
Big Data is Helping to Make Healthcare Patient-Centric
In the past, healthcare was always focused on the services provided directly to the patients, not on their outcomes. Those focused on the patient tended to discourage preventative care and led to high costs for patients. Blockchain has even begun to take on the healthcare system.
Today, big data allows the industry to focus more on preventative care and to monitor the health of entire populations, predicting risk factors and personalizing care. Nurses have access to the patient’s whole health story, allowing them to provide better care, provide better, more personalized recommendations, and tailor the patient’s care plan based on their unique needs. Big data also helps to reduce nursing errors and gets patients through the administration process more efficiently, taking stress off of nurses.
Robots are Not Coming for Nurses’ Jobs
The biggest concern about robots in healthcare is that they are going to take nurses’ jobs and reduce the number of human workers in the field. That’s not likely to happen anytime soon for the simple reason that there are a lot of things robots still can’t do.
Humans have the capacity for empathy, common sense, ethics, and creativity. They can also develop leadership skills and improve healthcare by inspiring and motivating teams. These are complex skills that robots do not have, leaving them ill-equipped to nurture patients or make smart decisions on the fly. For this reason, human nurses will continue to be crucial to the goals of every healthcare organization: to provide the best care possible.
Big Changes Ahead
Now that hospitals are starting to welcome technology into their organizations, we can expect to see a lot of changes. Whether a robot gives you a pill or directs you to the cardiac ward, you’re seeing big data and AI at work in real time. Though rapid — this change is only the beginning.