What Do We Need to Drive Innovation in Health Care? The Answer is Nurses
By Candice Ng
In a world where technology and innovation brings us to new heights we never knew were attainable, it is important to recognize the value in embracing this disruption. With the birth of social media, self-driving cars, and blockchain technology to name a few, the 21st century has bore witness to exponential advancements in technology (Roser & Ritchie, 2013). The health sector has also made remarkable strides worldwide and in our very own home, Alberta, with Health Cities’ projects like the Alberta Central Zone PCN Home Health Monitoring (HHM) Project, and Remote Diagnostic Imaging project. The question now is: How do we accelerate the pace of innovation in health care?
Innovations are crucial for us to overcome challenges in our system, “improve quality, cost, or efficiency of health care delivery”, and to “achieve better patient outcomes” (Noles et al., 2019, p. 307). Who better than nurses “to be the innovators and change agents” generating, implementing, diffusing, and accelerating health innovations (American Association of Colleges of Nursing, 2013, as cited in Noles et al., 2019, p. 307). Nurses are found at all points of care delivery, and are ideally situated globally and nationally making up the largest group in the healthcare workforce (Salvage & White, 2020, p. 4). Given the training and experience nurses have with identifying and addressing clinical problems, creating inventive solutions, and implementing new solutions and protocols, nurses are key in transforming healthcare (Noles et al., 2019).
Two of Health Cities recent projects, HHM and Remote Diagnostic Imaging, would not have existed (or been possible) without nurses.
The Home Health Monitoring (HHM) project was operated by teams of nurses and physicians to remotely monitor patients in their own homes with chronic health conditions. Nurses played a key role in providing training for the patients on how to use the monitoring equipment (blood pressure monitor, thermometer, weight scale, pulse oximeter) and remote monitoring platform (touchscreen tablet) (Health City, 2021, p. 3). The remote monitoring platform was monitored by nurses, and abnormal findings were followed up on by the nurses, and nurses would connect with physicians if necessary. “With the remote access that home health monitoring provides, patients could get education and support from the monitoring team to help better self-manage their conditions at home,” said Brooke, HHM Project Clinic Lead from Camrose Primary Care Network. Nurses surveyed demonstrated how this innovation positively impacted patient care and chronic disease management (Health City, 2021, p. 4).
In the Remote Diagnostic Imaging project, nurses were trained to use Medo Hip, a portable AI powered ultrasound device, to scan babies for developmental dysplasia of the hip. This cost and time effective innovation provided immediate scans and results was implemented as part of a baby check at clinics by nurses and physicians. The beauty of this innovation is that it can be used by non-specialized providers to accurately perform an ultrasound with the help of the software. The nurses are in an excellent position to implement innovations, such as Medo Hip, and assess health technology with their expertise in rolling out new initiatives and proven ability to adapt within the ever changing and fast paced field of health. (Thomas et al., 2016).
Being on the frontlines, working directly with the patients the most, nurses are able to identify the gaps that compromise patient outcomes and have the capability to create, support, or drive innovations to improve healthcare delivery (Thomas et al., 2016). As leaders, creators, researchers, educators, and caregivers, nurses have the capability to drive innovation in health care.
Noles, K., Barber, R., James, D., & Wingo, N. (2019). Driving Innovation in Health Care. Journal Of Nursing Care Quality, 34(4), 307-311. https://doi.org/10.1097/ncq.0000000000000394
Roser, M., & Ritchie, H. (2013). Technological Change. Our World in Data. Retrieved 10 May 2022, from https://ourworldindata.org/technological-change
Thomas, T., Seifert, P., & Joyner, J. (2016). Registered Nurses Leading Innovative Changes. OJIN: The Online Journal Of Issues In Nursing, 21(3). https://doi.org/10.3912/ojin.vol21no03man03
Salvage, J., & White, J. (2020). Our future is global: nursing leadership and global health. Revista Latino-Americana de Enfermagem, 28. https://doi.rg.login.ezproxy.library.ualberta.ca/10.1590/1518-8345.4542.3339
Health Cities (2021). Remote Monitoring for Chronic Care [White Paper]. https://healthcities.ca/remote-monitoring-white-paper/