#ThinkDigitalHealth – The Message for Nurses

Citation:

Kaminski, J. (Nov. 2018). #ThinkDigitalHealth – The Message for Nurses. Online Journal of Nursing Informatics (OJNI), 22(3).  Available at http://www.himss.org/ojni

This week is Digital Health Week here in Canada, from November 12 through the 18th. As one of the many health care organizations participating in Digital Health Week in Canada, OJNI, as part of HIMSS invites you to celebrate digital health, which is transforming care and empowering people all over the planet.

Nurses comprise the largest body of health care professionals across the globe. This fact has led researchers, analysts, health care organizations, international licensing organizations, and consulting groups to all agree that it is imperative that nurses participate in the decision-making, design, implementation, and evaluation of computers and other interactive digital health technologies in all contexts and sectors of the health care system. 

Digital health includes a wide gamut of technologies, interactions, assessments, and interventions via electronic health records, telehealth, eHealth patient portals, the internet of things, genome sequencing, social media networks, mobile health (mHealth), and so on. A key aspect of digital health is client or patient involvement and demand. This demand is often the catalyst that sparks nurses and other health professionals’ sense of urgency to become more aware and competent in the use of digital health modalities within their practice.

A key factor in the swift evolution of digital health is the astounding availability of devices – people all around the globe have access to some sort of mobile device. In fact, in some countries, mobile devices are more readily available (and used) than any other technology, including computers. Since so many people already have mobile devices and know how to use them for day to day activities, the demand for and ability to easily use mHealth apps on these devices are growing exponentially.

Wearable digital sensors attached to these mobile devices open up even more ways to monitor real time personal health indicators effortlessly. As well, people can enter personal data manually into many mHealth apps to keep track of their food intake, habits, workout repetitions, hours of sleep, and so on. These readily available devices and apps open up a never before known ability to access day to day health and wellness related data and information. With more research, we can ensure that digital health strategies are applied using evidenced-informed app design and monitoring. Nurses can be key players in this research and in supporting clients to use mobile devices and other technologies in the safest and most integrated ways.

One important aspect of digital health is the development of digital literacy. Nurses need to learn to assess their clients’ digital literacy when recommending online resources and mobile device apps or engaging with clients online via eHealth or through telehealth and EHR platforms.

According to Media Smarts (n.d., p. 1), “Digital Literacy is more than technological know-how; it includes a wide variety of ethical, social and reflective practices that are embedded in work, learning, leisure and daily life. One component of Digital Literacy is the set of skills that help us comprehend, contextualize, and critically evaluate digital media so that we can make informed decisions about what we do and encounter online.”

As nurses develop their own digital literacy, they can support their peers and their patients to partake in digital health in effective and meaningful ways. As digital health moves further along the path of interoperability between systems and devices, harnessing the power of artificial intelligence and machine learning and focusing on personalized care, healthcare as we know it can be transformed. We can finally offer true primary health care in a ways that fit people’s  lives dynamically and  with precision.

From November 12-18, 2018, the digital health community including, patients, caregivers and health care professionals are invited to share how digital health is advancing care.

Be a part of Digital Health Week:

References

Canada Health Infoway. (2018). Digital Health Week - November 12-18, 2018.  iBetter Health Together.Retrived from https://www.betterhealthtogether.ca/digital-health-week

Media Smarts (n.d.). Digital Literacy Fundamentals. Retrieved from http://mediasmarts.ca/digital-media-literacy/general-information/digital-media-literacy-fundamentals/digital-literacy-fundamentals