How the Internet of Things eases the burden of nursing

22.06.2020 by Daniel Kunz
Nurse looking at a tablet.

Draw blood, change sheets, administer IV drip: The daily routine of nurses is demanding. Documenting the work steps takes up additional time. In the future, with IoT, this will happen at the push of a button.

It’s 6 a.m., time for the shift changeover at the hospital. The night shift leaves, the early shift starts the day-to-day work: making beds, helping patients with personal hygiene, changing dressings, cleaning wounds, preparing medications, assisting with rounds – and all currently with FFP2 respirators and gloves. Even so, there is still the nursing documentation. Here, the nurses regularly record in writing all the planned and already performed procedures. In this way, the medical staff can trace the entire treatment of a patient at any time. And as a result, the documentation also serves as legal protection. However, whether it is done by pen and paper or with the help of a digital system, nursing documentation regularly costs valuable time and patience, even more so because in the currently challenging times, nursing staff – alongside all other activities – have to pay more attention to hygiene regulations. Moreover, there is currently a lack of nurses. The reasons: Shift work, comparatively low pay, few career opportunities and a lot of bureaucracy. This deficiency became particularly clear during the current crisis.

More Time for Nursing Thanks to Digitalization

Although nurses are essential workers, hospitals generally lack the financial resources to improve these conditions. According to a hospital study by KPMG conducted in the summer of 2019, which looked at clinics in the southern German states of Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg, six out of 10 hospitals reported financial losses compared to the previous year. This is not only a problem in the south of Germany, because according to a previous survey, the heads of one in four hospitals in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia also believe that if state funding does not increase then their clinic’s future existence will be endangered. According to a recent study by the University of Cologne, the coronavirus pandemic is increasing the shortcomings in nursing care: the procurement and consumption of protective equipment, compliance with hygiene measures and worrying about self-infection are currently increasing the burden.

In the short term, Federal Minister of Health, Jens Spahn, has decided on a number of measures to relieve the burden on nursing home staff, such as the suspension of the nursing TÜV until September 2020. With the so-called Care Staff Strengthening Act, the federal government wants to improve everyday life in outpatient and inpatient care, also in the long-term. In addition to financing additional training places, measures to reconcile family and career, and additional financial resources for small hospitals in rural areas, digitalization will be used to reduce the burden on nursing staff – especially in the area of nursing documentation. Since the law came into force on January 1, 2019, the federal government has provided funds of up to 30,000 euros per institution for digital or technical equipment.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a suitable technology for a cost-effective and fast digitalization of the day-to-day running of a hospital. This is because many solutions function via plug and play and have an independent power supply and connectivity. Such applications have already been successfully tested at the University Hospital of Mainz, for example. Together with experts from Deutsche Telekom, the hospital developed a smart solution for nursing documentation at the Healthcare Hackathon in July 2019.

Nursing Documentation at the Push of a Button With IoT

The result: The IoT Service Button for nursing staff, which the University Hospital of Mainz has also successfully implemented. An example: If nurses want to use certain medical devices, one button is sufficient for ordering and documentation. For example, if a nurse needs a vacuum pump to support wound healing, one click is enough. The button automatically sends a signal to the IoT Cloud – Telekom’s Internet of Things platform. The hospital's materials warehouse then immediately receives an e-mail and delivers the pump as quickly as possible without contact. At the same time, the button sends a signal to hospital logistics.

This digitally documents that the pump is in use. When the treatment with the vacuum pump is finished, the nurse presses the button again. Hospital logistics receives a signal that the pump must be collected and cleaned and notes that the wound treatment with the pump is finished. Written documentation, faxes and telephone calls are no longer necessary and the medical equipment gets to where it is needed much faster. "Nurses save up to 20 minutes of time per procedure," says Henning Koch, Project Manager and Business Development Manager Digital Health at Deutsche Telekom.

Digitalization Makes Nursing Work More Attractive

The button not only lists the use of medical devices, but also facilitates any kind of ordering process. For example, when beds are to be cleaned, instruments sent for sterilization or rooms disinfected – especially important in the current time for nursing documentation. "I am pleased that innovative Internet of Things technologies are also in greater demand in the healthcare sector," says project manager Koch. This in turn reduces overtime and stress and ultimately also makes the nursing profession more attractive. The IoT Service Button, as well as other solutions from the Internet of Things, can be individually adapted to the various needs of organizations in the healthcare sector – hospitals, nursing and retirement homes can all use them.


 

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Daniel Kunz
Daniel Kunz

Expert Digital Marketing

Digitization and the Internet of Things are among the favourite topics of Daniel Kunz. He has been with Deutsche Telekom since 2017 and regularly writes about technology trends and many exciting topics, especially for the retail trade and the logistics industry.