The technology age has much to offer for consumers and professionals alike, especially in the realm of health care. Among a slew of new inventions, the editors at NurseZone have chosen a few of the more interesting and innovative high-tech devices and trends that are saving time, improving quality and have the potential to change the face of nursing and patient care.
Vein Finders Lead to Less Pain, Prodding
In search of that elusive vein, nurses can poke and prod people more often than they’d like during the estimated 2.7 million venipuncture procedures performed each day in the United States. Now technology is making these veins more visible, saving a lot of pain and problems for both patients and nurses.
One of the first vein finders on the market was VeinViewer by Luminetx, which uses near infrared technology to locate subcutaneous veins and project the images onto the surface of the skin. The system—recognized by Time as a top medical innovation—is housed on a small-profile rolling cart with an arm that extends up to 40” to easily scan different parts of the body.
A more recent vein finder named the vein illumination device from AccuVein, adds the convenience of a lightweight, hand-held device. It weighs about 10 ounces and runs on a rechargeable battery. This portable tool is useful for a variety of patients and settings.
Robots on Rounds Extend Medical Reach
Is there a doctor in the house? If not, InTouch Health produces RP-7®, a mobile robotic platform that enables a physician to be remotely present, communicate with nursing staff and effectively extend his or her reach to manage patient care.
The top of the “robot” is a computer monitor that shows the doctor’s face, and the machine is equipped with a video camera to film the patient and others at the bedside. This remote presence device allows direct connection to Class II medical devices such as electronic stethoscopes, otoscopes and ultrasound that can transmit medical data to the remote physician.
Memorial Health System of East Texas is one of 250 providers worldwide that has the RP-7 robotic doctor roaming the halls.
These robots are just one example of the new trends in telemedicine. Many medical facilities are also gaining access to specialists through teleconferences, smart phones and special remote access systems.
Modern Improvements on the 50-year-old Sling Lift
The basic design for the sling lift, sometimes called the Hoyer lift, was patented in 1955 by R.R. Stratton. It uses hydraulic power to transfer patients between a bed and a chair or other resting place. Stratton would be amazed at the wide variety of slings and lifting technologies available today.
Improvements to lifting systems have transformed the day-to-day routines of many nurses and healthcare professionals. In addition to reducing injury, modern lifting technologies improve patient care and can help reduce costs associated with patient handling injuries. The staff at Saint Joseph Mercy Health System based in Ann Arbor, Mich., incorporated modern lifting devices into patient rooms during the construction of two new towers in an effort to reduce injuries and streamline patient care standards.
Ceiling lift rail structures from Liko were installed in all patient rooms, and ceiling lift motors have been installed in a number of rooms. The staff also has access to 20 mobile lifts that can easily move from unit to unit. New lifting technologies will continue to evolve and make patient transfers safer and easier for both the caregiver and the patient.
Nursing Apps Bring Clinical Help to Mobile Devices
The digital age is here! No longer are nurses tied to their three-inch-thick reference tomes; they can simply download much of the material they need for their mobile devices. From a free downloadable drug reference to the full PDA version of Nursing Central, today’s RNs can carry clinical information in their pockets, using their iPhone, Palm, Blackberry or other smart phone device.
Many nursing schools are also using podcasts of lectures that students can download and view on the go (see related story on NurseZone).
mHealth: Even More Mobile Technology
The growing trend in mobile applications for patient care has a name: mhealth, also known as mobile health. According to Wikipedia, mhealth is “a recent term for medical and public health practice supported by mobile devices, such as mobile phones, patient monitoring devices, PDAs, and other wireless devices.”
Some of the developments to watch include:
- In-home tracking systems that deliver health alerts to smart phones for health workers and other caregivers; developed by engineers at the University of Houston, in cooperation with the Abramson Center for the Future of Health.
- A USB-based ultrasound probe that can connect to a smart phone, creating a low-cost ultrasound imaging platform; developed at Washington University in St. Louis.
- The cell phone is also part of a novel approach to health behavior research at the University of California, San Diego. Engineers and preventive medicine specialists are developing wireless solutions for monitoring health behaviors in order to understand disease and how to prevent it.