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Remote operations have become a familiar aspect of our contemporary society. The technology to digitally connect people across vast distances has been available for several years. But the COVID-19 pandemic forced popular uptake—companies shifted their employees to work from home, and various generations stayed connected through video conferencing. One of the areas that also saw a boost was the uptake of telehealth technology and services.
The public has started to recognize the convenience and stability of remote healthcare, and there is likely to be continued growth in the area. As a traveling nurse—a sector also seeing a surge in demand recently—you are increasingly likely to include the technology and practices here as part of their standard toolkit. It is important to take the time to understand how this impacts the level of care you can provide and the steps you can take to make the most of it.
The growth in demand for information technology (IT) in the healthcare sector is continuing to alter a lot of professionals’ relationships with their jobs. For instance, automated tools are increasingly being used to help care providers and patients to make sometimes life-changing decisions about diagnoses and treatment. This places a great deal of responsibility on skilled IT professionals to design and maintain reliable tools. But it also means doctors and travel nurses need to have specialized medical knowledge to collaborate with these tools in ways that maximize the effectiveness and accuracy for patients.
Mobile healthcare providers are already having to take this approach with remote physiological monitoring devices. There are certainly specialist pieces of technology involved in this process; blood pressure readers, blood glucose readers, and spirometers to measure pulmonary functioning. For the most part, there are clear training and operating procedures about how to effectively use this as part of a patient’s care. Where you’re likely to find more scope for uncertainty is when utilizing the patient’s own devices.
This is an increasingly common area of exploration. Smartphones and smartwatches have more nuanced sensors today. When paired with apps, they can monitor a patient’s cardiovascular system, sleep patterns, and respiratory health with a relatively good degree of accuracy. There is also software to track cognitive functioning and mental health. However, in these cases, it is vital to assess through experience and research whether these are appropriate for use and whether they can fit into the care plan you’re providing your patients. Consider, too, how securely these devices can transmit patient data, too—it may be the case that to maintain security you need to research their compatibility with Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) compliant telehealth cloud platforms.
Utilizing telehealth and technological tools is a learning curve for both you as a traveling nurse and your patients. Indeed, one of the reasons people have been initially slow on the uptake of this technology is a lack of confidence in the tools. Particularly if you’re practicing in rural areas of the country or far-flung destinations, you may find that while telehealth can be a vital lifeline to care, it also requires some attention to education. As such, you need to be prepared to be a guide to your patients.
Health education is likely already a significant part of your job. Heading out on the road to visit patients often means introducing them to concepts they’re unfamiliar or uncomfortable with. It’s therefore worth preparing some technological educational materials to help patients make the most of the methods and tools you’ll be utilizing. When you’re visiting them in person, go through a practical demonstration of the telehealth platforms, showing how to start calls, upload any information or monitoring data, and even ensure their setup is secure and comfortable.
This can also be a good time to assess how stable their broadband connection is and its suitability for remote appointments. The CDC recently recommended such assessments can improve uptake of mobile care. This is because it allows you to also ascertain whether more flexible forms of appointment—audio rather than video, asynchronous contact—may be effective.
Staying Ahead of the Curve
The telehealth tech space is constantly changing. Just when you’ve gotten used to a tool, it can seem like it is being superseded by something more efficient or better suited to the task. This can present challenges to you as a mobile nurse, particularly as you may not always have the same immediate access to educational resources as your colleagues in traditional establishments. As such, you need to place focus on staying ahead of the curve wherever possible.
Your best option here is developing and maintaining relationships beyond your immediate agency and coworkers. Make space in your schedule to attend industry conferences and seminars, as these are often opportunities to learn from those involved with developing technology and the protocols you’re likely to use in the future. There are new developments in telehealth—this aspect of the industry is expected to expand significantly between now and 2026—and engaging with these early can help you to apply them effectively. Some of the developments are strictly technological. Artificial intelligence (AI) has a presence in diagnostic software and maintaining medical records. Mobile health (mHealth) tech is expanding to encompass connected medical ID apps that alert care staff when there are emergencies.
Forging relationships here might also include the option to partner with technology developers in testing protocols for these devices. Rather than always playing catch-up in learning how to use technology, you can be instrumental in influencing how it is used in the field and introducing it to patients. This can even lead to opportunities for your professional progression.
Being a traveling nurse is rewarding, and it is increasingly becoming a focus for technological tools and telehealth. You can best use these by understanding how to effectively collaborate with the tools and being a source of support and education for your patients. However, as the field expands it is wise to stay ahead of the curve and be willing to engage in developing the protocols for important new tools.
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