One of the really cool things that we have at Vanderbilt is something called the Wond’ry. It’s this huge space connected to the new engineering and sciences building that helps facilitate innovative projects — a place where you can say, “I’ve got an idea, but I don’t know exactly how to make it happen.” It’s for every discipline, not just nurses, and collaboration is encouraged.
HEALTHTECH: What modern technology has had the biggest impact on nursing?
The electronic health record is the focus of all points of care delivery. Nurses aren’t just entering data into the EHR. They are ordering things, retrieving results, reviewing the history and entering data. They’re also looking at reports and analytics to see how they are doing.
Patients are using the electronic health record too, meaning the patient portal. Nurses are always trying to encourage engagement with patients — not just when they’re acutely ill in the hospital but to improve wellness on a day-to-day basis. That can be done a lot better via a portal than waiting for them to come in for a 15-minute clinic visit or a hospital stay.
HEALTHTECH: If you could wave a magic wand and improve EHRs, how would you do it?
Usability is where I think most vendors fall short. Sometimes these systems are so complex; the screens are graphically dense and you can’t tell what you’re supposed to click on. They’re not intuitive; you’ve got to fill in a blank by clicking two screens, getting some information, clicking two screens back, then entering the data.
There’s also the issue of interoperability. The data doesn’t really do a good job at following a patient wherever they go, regardless of where care was delivered. So, we end up doing a lot of redundant testing and duplication of asking questions.
HEALTHTECH: How has the increased emphasis on mobility affected nursing?
I don’t think we can say yet that we have nationwide critical mass on mobility efforts. We have it in some pockets, and I think that nurses are asking for more.
We’re starting to see our vendor partners creating better tools that can be used on cellphones and laptops. Some of the vendors that create our electronic health record will admit that the representation, or the graphic user interface, is not created for a mobile platform.
We want our nurses to be mobile. We don’t want them to be tethered to a workstation on wheels that is cumbersome, that is always needing to be plugged in because the battery runs out and that can be difficult to get into rooms that are smaller, especially two-patient rooms. I think those machines are going to become dinosaurs.
We’re also starting to look at efficiencies related to being able to contact someone via text message rather than going and finding a phone. It’s so much better when you have text messaging between nurses and between providers, and we’re starting to see efficiencies there.