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How Real-Time Data Impacts Nursing

Data is increasingly central to evidence-based holistic nursing practice and can provide insights into a patient’s status. Real-time data gathered at the bedside and via mobile technologies can improve patient safety, extend the time nurses spend with patients and identify issues before they become critical.

Historically, delays in reporting have hampered data quality. Managing the sheer quantity of data and consolidating it into a simple format for review has presented significant roadblocks, too. However, new technological developments have minimized these issues, simplifying data collection and improving its cost-effectiveness.

What Are Examples of Real-Time Data in Nursing?

Continuous clinical surveillance tools are a real-time data solution for inpatient settings. These can “aggregate continuous streams of data from multiple patient monitoring devices, as well as retrospective information from electronic health records (EHRs), and combine them with advanced analytics to produce a holistic picture of a patient’s condition,” says the Journal of AHIMA.

Predictive analytics tools recognize trends in patient status and alert nurses to potential issues or a patient’s risk of deteriorating. However, hospitals should tailor the software’s parameters to their specific needs, according to the Journal of AHIMA. Plus, it’s important to remember that these automated systems should never override clinical judgment but instead “supplement human oversight.”

The latest generation of automated IV pumps links to the EHR and regularly submits real-time data. Barcode medication scanning ensures patients “receive the medications while almost fully automating the five rights of medication administration,” says the website Halo Health. Some pumps can “even capture titrations, rate changes for new dosages and new bags hung.”

Real-time locating systems (RTLS) track patients as they move around a facility, typically via a small plastic badge worn by the patient and equipped with a push-button. “The system identifies when physicians and other staff members are finished with a patient and ready for the next encounter,” says Lippincott NursingCenter. Perfect in outpatient settings and for patients undergoing multiple in-office procedures, RTLS keep staff informed about room availability and patient status as well as lab orders, medications and clinician workflows.

What Are the Benefits of Real-Time Data in Healthcare?

Real-time data has many benefits, both for patients and nurses. The following are some major pros:

Enhances health assessments. Nurses can use this supplemental data to complete comprehensive health assessments and improve the overall picture of a patient’s situation. History-taking remains imperative, but the additional data is insightful. Learning how to integrate the data into assessments is a critical component of a curriculum for a Registered Nurse (RN) to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program.

Improves patient safety. Predictive analytics allows for better monitoring of a patient’s condition. It also helps nurses intervene sooner when health issues arise. Real-time data provides multiple data points across time, and when combined with historical EHR records, it allows nurses to spot abnormal or troubling changes.

Strengthens communication and documentation. Ideally, healthcare decisions should consider the most recent data. However, when patient charting and documentation lags, the likelihood of errors and poor outcomes increases. Real-time data systems integrate with the EHR, updating patient records automatically and accommodating the free flow of information to guide care decisions. This capacity for greater data-sharing also simplifies nursing workflows by eliminating some documentation tasks and helping nurses practice crucial soft skills like communication.

Streamlines coordination of care. Transitions in care are challenging, mainly because the receiving facility may have only limited information about the patient. Real-time data ensures all providers and healthcare staff are on the same page, bridging gaps in care coordination and promoting greater collaboration among patients and the healthcare team.

Integrating real-time data into clinical decision-making offers a more holistic view of a patient’s condition. Thanks to advancements in technology, robust data collection can inform care decisions while improving collaboration and outcomes.

Learn more about Eastern Illinois University’s online RN to BSN program.

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