From the June 2015 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine
Nationally, we can expect a near-term shortage of primary care physicians (PCPs) that amounts to an anticipated shortfall of 40,000 PCPs by 2020.
The patient experience in the U.S. is clearly set to become a lot less hands-on. For many, technology will close that gap. Technology, after all, can take care of many of the patient’s strictly medical needs: it assists in diagnosis, enables advanced forms of surgery, and optimizes the delivery of care. But a high-touch environment is necessary for promoting healing on a more fundamental level. High-touch health care fosters harmony of the mind, body, and spirit—a harmony that some studies suggest can accelerate the healing process.
Today’s patients are not willing to compromise high touch for high tech—they expect both. The burden of meeting those expectations in the absence of adequate PCP staffing will almost certainly fall to nurses. Nurses who can combine technological knowledge with traditional bedside experience will become even more valuable in this new context.
Merging the worlds
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So where are the opportunities for health care professionals to balance high tech with high touch? Here are a few areas where the combination is already making an impact.
1. Transitioning to home-based care
Hospital-based nurses are currently leveraging today’s user-friendly technology platforms to help patients make the transition from the hospital to their home.
This process involves several steps:
developing an electronic care plan
obtaining electronic consent from patients
configuring medical devices for patient monitoring
assisting patients with the use of medical devices and smart sensors until they are able to utilize them independently
assigning the patient educational videos
analyzing each patient’s electronic database on a regular basis.
Nurses who master these technological skills proactively are extremely valuable: they are the model high-tech, high-touch practitioners, and hospitals and providers are rightly creating new high-paying positions to attract qualified people to fill them. Those organizations will be rewarded for attracting and retaining talent in these positions, as they will help implement advanced care interventions and thus reduce patient readmissions.
2. Real-time monitoring of patients
Nurses are already on the front lines of patient care, but they can make even more of an impact when they are empowered to adjust instructions and prescriptions based on real-time monitoring. High-tech, high-touch nurses first need to be certified on the specific EMR system used at the hospital, and must master the patient monitoring platform and its configuration screen. Nurses today regularly use these systems to schedule personalized alert messages and provide specific instructions for patients.