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Technology enabling nurses to fight COVID-19

Photo: Technology enabling nurses to fight COVID-19
By Tim Morris

Across the globe today, nurses are at the forefront of the arduous journey to combat and contain COVID-19, undertaking long, grueling shifts in their armor and masks. Pictures trending on social media reveal the resulting physical and emotional toll and capture their heroic efforts fighting this pandemic. Being a senior nurse in emergency medicine 24 years ago, I was used to the unknown. Every day was a challenge – I was not sure what was going to come through the door or how patients may react – there was an element of thrill as well as trepidation. This, however, is different. The invisible virus is highly contagious, known to kill vast numbers of patients and its transmission is not easily traced. These factors add an additional level of anxiety impacting both healthcare professionals and their families at home.
In the midst of this raging battle, the Australian Medical Association has highlighted the risk of healthcare professionals burning out while the WHO has warned about the impending mental health crisis amongst nurses, who account for 59 percent of the healthcare workforce. A recent study in the UK indicated that the highest numbers of deaths among healthcare professionals were not always those in the Intensive Care Unit, but those who were working with the less sick. The biggest pandemic this generation has ever faced, which has inflicted millions worldwide is seeing nurses – who are more often the first point-of-contact for patients – race against time and put their lives on the line to care for patients. As the world scrambles to find treatments and a vaccine for this disease, we need to enable nurses with the latest knowledge and skills to support them in delivering the best care possible while recognizing their efforts as they fight for countless lives.

Enhancing the productivity of nurses through technology

The world is facing a surge in the number of COVID-19 patients daily, resurfacing the issue of nursing shortage. It is estimated that the world needs another 5.9 million nurses in the health system, and this  has come under greater scrutiny during this crisis as they play a critical role. While there is no quick fix to expand the workforce, technology interventions can help nurses streamline many administrative processes, assist with onboarding and training, enhance productivity and reduce care variability.

Many healthcare workers, including nurses, rely heavily on electronic health record (EHR) systems to access patient records and make important decisions for their patients. Taking this one step further, the integration of clinical decision support (CDS) tools with existing EHR systems helps nurses access a variety of care guidance tools such as medical reference databases and evidence-based care plans. These tools broadly refer to a set of processes, knowledge and digital functionalities that provide nurses with the latest evidence-based guidelines to support the care process. With these, nurses are more data-enabled to make evidence-based and efficient clinical decisions for their patients. This is important during a pandemic, as technology can help reduce the time taken to identify the most appropriate safety measures and care for patients while assisting in the coordination of care. 

Supporting nurses with the latest COVID-19 best practices and training

Countries, like the United States, have renewed their call for retired nurses to rejoin the workforce  while Australia and the United Kingdom have brought in soon-to-graduate nursing students to lend their skills to relieve the existing nursing workforce. However, these supplementary nurses bring with them varied knowledge and skillsets, which may not be aligned to current best practices to manage the pandemic.

To ensure that these nurses are able to contribute and assist the existing nursing workforce in coping with the increased patient load, organizations must invest in evidence-based competence programs to ensure that all nurses are practicing according to the latest evidence and organizational standards that will build competencies in these times.

An example is St Stephen’s Hospital, Australia's first fully integrated digital hospital, that adopted Elsevier’s Clinical Skills. Nurses can access the latest COVID-19 guidelines and provide high-quality standardized care by leveraging these evidence-based training and references solutions. With these, nurses at St Stephen’s Hospital have the confidence to practise their skills and safely treat patients in line with current literature guided by evidence-based best practices during this critical period.

Nurses can also visit the Elsevier COVID-19 Healthcare Hub to access toolkits, including important care plans and procedure videos to deliver consistent care for the patients. The COVID-19 Healthcare Hub is continually updated with the latest guidelines and research materials as they are made available.

Democratizing knowledge to assist nurses when adopting telehealth services

Globally, hospitals are facing stresses in their capacity with the high number of COVID-19 cases. Additionally, they are deterring other patients from visiting healthcare facilities with fear of contracting the virus. This has sparked an uptake in the use of telehealth systems to alleviate the demand on traditional non-critical healthcare services. Around the world, countries such as the United States, Australia, China and the United Kingdom have reviewed their telehealth regulations and are encouraging healthcare workers to use telehealth services to triage, assess and care for patients.

Nurses who are remotely providing these telehealth services need ready access to knowledge to make informed decisions on behalf of their patients, outside of the hospital environment. They can turn to evidence-based knowledge platforms and open access resources to easily retrieve important information about COVID-19 and other diseases to provide in-depth answers and give the best care to patients in the safest way possible.

My experience as a senior nurse in emergency medicine 24 years ago was a very different one. During those days, we were barely grazing the surface of healthcare digitalization and we did not have access to technology that provides evidence-based information and standardization of care that are now available globally. Today, leveraging technology is more important than ever. The COVID-19 pandemic is far from over and nurses cannot wash their hands of this anytime soon. We need to arm them with the latest, relevant evidence-based information at the point-of-care to ensure better patient outcomes.

Tim Morris
Commercial Portfolio and Partnership Director, EMALAAP, Elsevier

Tim Morris is the Commercial Portfolio and Partnership Director at Elsevier, working as the experienced healthcare professional in Clinical Decision Support & Hospital Workflow Solutions across the EMEA/LA region.

He has nearly 30 years of healthcare experience, from delivering care as a nurse in a London A&E Department, research and management within the NHS, to direct sales and product development with a range of public and private health companies.
His prior positions involve:

  • Technical development for a Health Informatics companies, where he was an expert for international opportunities for sales and partnerships
  • Managing Director for a healthcare company where he ensured effective corporate governance
  • Clinical Product Director for a growing supplier of IT solutions across NHS, private, third-sector and local government across multiple nations.
Tim Morris is an experienced board member with international exposure, and has displayed his well-established experience of decision support and knowledge management systems during his 4 years at Elsevier working on Clinical Decision Support Solutions. He has been working at Elsevier since 2015.
Tim Morris obtained his BSc in Health Services from the University of Surrey, following which he obtained a Pragmatic Marketing’s Focus certification.



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