Jul 15 2020

How Clinical Mobility Improves Nursing Efficiency and Care Delivery

With capacities far greater than a smartphone, the highly intuitive devices give caretakers a critical edge.

Editor’s note: This content series, featured in your Insider dashboard, will be rolled out over the coming weeks to offer advice on driving collaboration between IT teams and clinical staff. (If you’re not already an Insider, sign up for free here.) The associated articles explore why nurses should be included in the decision-making process for purchasing new equipment and how to develop this relationship as part of your IT strategy.

Even before COVID-19, healthcare systems faced an array of pressures on their resources: a growing number of older patients, an unprecedented nursing shortage and ever-rising costs of care.

These and other constraints have only intensified during the pandemic. Organizations must now also meet higher expectations for safety, efficiency and collaboration. Increasingly, they’re achieving those goals by implementing clinical mobility, using handheld mobile computers and other devices. 

The movement is growing: By 2022, 97 percent of bedside nurses will carry a mobile device — up from 65 percent in 2017, according to a Zebra Technologies survey of over 1,500 nurse managers, IT executives and patients.

“When clinical mobility is implemented, the meaningful improvements in patient care can make it hard to remember providing care without a mobile device,” says Rikki Jennings, Zebra’s chief nursing informatics officer.

Here are a few ways that clinical mobility is providing healthcare organizations with an edge and giving patients a better care experience.

DISCOVER: Learn how Zebra's mobility solutions are improving efficiency, productivity and security in healthcare.

Mobile Tools for Nursing Are More Than a Smartphone

Clinical mobility isn’t just a smartphone; it’s a medical device. When healthcare organizations deploy these devices, they need to invest in adequate training and staff support, especially when new nurses come onboard or the technology itself evolves.

Unlike personal smartphones, clinical devices have to withstand wipe-downs with hospital-grade disinfectants many times a day, especially now. Device makers are avoiding certain metals that break down after a lot of wiping and reducing the number of holes and crevices where dirt or germs might enter.

Moreover, clinical mobility devices typically don’t remain in the possession of any one individual, Jennings notes. Nurses hand them off to colleagues at the end of their shifts, so the devices must allow for easy removal and replacement of batteries, ensuring they’re always fully charged.

“Healthcare devices truly need to be in use 24/7/365,” Jennings says.

Healthcare Mobility Initiatives Support Better Communication and Care

The tools greatly benefit workflows. Previously, a nurse in a patient’s room who needed to confer with a physician had to stop everything to make that communication happen by walking to the nurses’ station to page the physician — and then wait at the station for a call back or return to the patient and possibly miss the physician’s return call. 

Likewise, a nurse needing assistance might have to stick his or her head outside the patient’s door and shout for help.

Now, bedside nurses can simply pull out the mobile devices from their pockets to call or text the physician directly. “Clinical mobility has improved by leaps and bounds the way we provide care for patients,” Jennings says.

This clear and timely communication leads to faster interventions and fewer errors. More than 60 percent of nurses using clinical mobility report reduced medication administration errors, according to the Zebra study.

These capabilities are even more vital during the pandemic as hospitals set up medical tents and mobile testing facilities. “With COVID-19, hospitals need to provide communication inside and outside their four walls,” Jennings says.

MORE FROM HEALTHTECH: The Zebra TC51-HC is a perfect prescription for mobility.

Having patient information and communication capabilities in the palm of their hands allows nurses to be more productive — and, ultimately, more satisfied with their jobs because they’re less burdened with time-consuming tasks that don’t directly contribute to patient care. 

“That work creates gaps in efficiency and contributes to burnout,” Jennings says.

Mobile Tech Evolves to Meet Nurses’ Needs

In their early incarnations, clinical mobility devices mostly allowed clinicians to make phone calls. Later, they also enabled secure text messaging. 

Today, their capabilities have expanded: Clinicians can use them to access electronic health records, scan medication, capture images and label blood samples. 

The latest devices provide benefits that address pandemic-related concerns by helping respond to skyrocketing demand for telehealth via video chat and reducing the need for personal protective equipment. Mobile devices can also be used for proximity detection and contact tracing.

“These devices are getting smarter to help caregivers provide safer care, and to keep them safer as well,” Jennings says.

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