By Judy Murphy
One of the most stressful parts of a nurse’s job is the so-called “handover,” which occurs at the beginning of the shift–typically at 7 a.m. or 7 p.m.
In a matter of minutes, they have to find out which patients have been assigned to them, get reports from the nurses who handled those patients during the previous shift, and plan everything for their shift, from administering medications and scheduling procedures to giving baths and doing assessments –all the while being aware of activities that are already on the books for each patient. Talk about multitasking!
But what if the nurse carried a smartphone in their pocket that provided them with all of the information they need about patients, made them aware of potential scheduling conflicts and alerted them when something requires their immediate attention? That would be a powerful nurse’s aide.
And that’s the goal that IBM and Apple set for creating a new healthcare app for the iPhone called Hospital RN. The app, which is just now becoming available, is one of four nursing apps that we launched in tandem. The others are Hospital Lead, for supervising nurses; Hospital Tech, for nursing assistants and technicians; and Home RN, for home-based nurses.
IBM and Apple formed a partnership last year to develop a new class of mobile apps designed to transform industries and professions. We’re combining Apple’s expertise in user-centric design with IBM’s deep knowledge of business, data analytics, cloud and enterprise-scale software. The nursing apps are among hundreds of professionally-oriented apps that are under development.
For too long, the US healthcare system has been hobbled by the fact that many of the organizations involved don’t share data and insights with one another. That makes it difficult to effectively and efficiently manage care for individual patients and manage healthcare for all of society. Our view is that by sharing data and insights, the many participants in the system will achieve better outcomes.
So we’re creating a stand-alone healthcare business within IBM that not only delivers IBM technology products and services but participates in data-sharing alliances and forms close partnerships with companies like Apple to bring insights to healthcare professionals in the most timely and effective ways.
We expect that the data-sharing alliances will span the entire healthcare system, from patients at one end to drug researchers at the other. One of the most intriguing elements of our initiative is an expanded alliance with Apple. We’re providing technology and services to strengthen two of Apple’s healthcare services, HealthKit, which is a repository for patient-generated health information such as blood pressure, heart rate and body temperature; and ResearchKit, a development platform for iPhone apps that allow patients to monitor their health and researchers to reach out to individuals to share information for use in studies.
A key imperative in all of this is to create sharing ecosystems, cloud services and mobile apps that are practical and easy to use. I believe that the nursing apps serve as a model for what we’ll do going forward.
The essence of a nurse’s job is to be the care coordinator for each patient. If the nurse doesn’t have the right tools for coordinating care, her or his job can become an administrative nightmare. It’s estimated that as much as half of a nurse’s shift is spent on administrative tasks–rather than interacting with patients.
While the spread of electronic health records helps make vital information more readily available, by itself it doesn’t streamline the way health professions do their jobs to help them work more effectively and efficiently.
That’s where the mobile apps come in. The apps don’t deluge nurses with data. Instead, they provide them with the organized and prioritized information they need at the moment they need it–and including graphics that make the information easy to digest.
Freed from administrative burden, nurses can spend more time with patients. I expect this to improve the patient’s experience for all the obvious reasons but also for some less obvious ones. If nurses aren’t in a rush, they signal to patients that it’s okay to talk about “little” things that are bothering them that might turn out to be big things. Plus, it will help calm patients, which accelerates the healing process.
I started my career as a hospital RN back when nurses and doctors were still allowed to smoke in the nursing station, so I’ve seen plenty of changes. I became a nurse because I wanted to help people get better, and, though I have been in the IT end of the business for decades, helping people is still what gets me up in the morning.
With the new apps and services that are emerging, and with this new spirit of sharing data, I believe it’s possible to transform US healthcare into one of the most respected systems in the world–with patients as the big winners.