Nurses Say IT Efforts Ignore Their Needs

A survey of "early adopter" nurses finds that many of them are paying for devices such as PDAs out of pocket, and they say vendors are delivering poor-quality products that reflect a lack of understanding of what nurses do on a daily basis.

Nurses are the largest group of health care providers in the United States, with 2.7 million professionals. But so far, their IT needs have been neglected by health care organizations and IT vendors alike, according to a new study by marketing research firm Spyglass Consulting Group.

The study consisted of one hundred in-depth interviews with nurses that are early IT adopters, with or without the support of their employer. These early adopters are largely dissatisfied with the technologies currently available and feel that their IT needs are often overlooked due to other IT priorities in their organizations.

Ninety percent of these nurses said they think tablet PCs are a poor option for bedside nursing because of poor durability, heavy weight, large size, short battery life and high cost.

PDAs, on the other hand, are a much more popular mobile device among these nurses. Ninety percent reported using a mobile device on a daily basis for everything from drug reference databases to reference manuals to medical calculators.

But nurses are largely unsupported by their institutions in their use of PDAs. Eighty percent reported having to purchase their own PDA, and two-thirds are skeptical that their organization has plans to buy PDAs for nurses.

"Nurses are buying the solutions because their organizations refuse to do it for them," said Gregg Malkary, founder of SpyGlass Consulting. "Among nurses, only 5 to 8 percent are using mobile devices, while the rate is much higher among doctors at around 50 percent."

Health care organizations are focusing their IT purchasing efforts related to nursing on mobile computer carts at the bedside. More than half of these nurses reported that these were being implemented at their organizations. Still, most of the nurses thought that health care IT vendors are delivering poor-quality products that reflect a lack of understanding of what nurses do on a daily basis.

/zimages/3/28571.gifClick here to read about physicians resistance to using electronic order-entry systems.

Even these "early adopter" nurses, who have declared an interest in employing IT in the workplace, are being held back by organizational inefficiencies. More than a third are still keeping strictly paper-based patient documentation, while the remaining almost two-thirds with online systems feel that what they use is too difficult, inefficient and not well-integrated with other departmental systems.

Most nurses spend anywhere from one-fifth to one-half of their time documenting patient care provided, but so far health care organizations arent targeting trimming that time through the adequate integration of IT as a top priority.

Most of the nurses surveyed thought that voice recognition could be useful for patient documentation in the future, but there were concerns over accuracy levels, training and maintaining patient privacy. But when it comes to handwriting-recognition technologies, most of the nurses thought that it wouldnt be very useful because of the trend toward structured data.

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