Emerging Technologies

2020: Emerging Technology in Global Nursing Care

Global nursing care

Today, the global healthcare ecosystem begs for new processes, models, systems, and products that achieve the Quadruple Aim–to better manage populations, lower costs, and improve the patient and clinician experience (Bodenheimer & Sinsky, 2014). The nursing profession is enabling the achievement of these objectives by harnessing emerging technologies. Meeting these imperatives will not occur without nurses, as nurses are the largest group of practicing clinicians worldwide (Haddad & Toney-Butler, 2020) making them the most significant users of health technologies (Zadvinskis, et al.,, 2018). for patient care delivery.

With the distinguished honor of the World Health Organization deeming 2020 the Year of the Nurse and Midwife across the globe, it is time to take the perspective of nurses' care delivery now and how that will change in the future. Largely steeped in transforming healthcare and the global nursing profession is the tactical application of emerging technologies (Huston, 2013), those that eclipse electronic health record documentation and ordering systems, telehealth, smart devices, and mobile health. Emerging technologies beyond these now standard advances are taking over global health. This celebratory year is a perfect time to present evidence of the precise applications of emerging technologies in tactical care delivery and operations in all types of healthcare settings.

Emerging Technologies Impacting Global Health

In 2020, novel, intelligent, immersive, and connected technological advances have made their way into nursing care delivery settings globally. Due, in part, to globalization (Bradbury-Jones & Clark, 2017). stark illustrations of nurses who develop, champion, adopt, and apply emerging technologies to make better decisions at the point of care and support operations using these technologies have become a reality. These applications are rapidly occurring now, will continue, and are fortunately happening at a time when the need to improve global health outcomes is imperative. To meet this need, nurses are improving safe, quality care through the use of new technological innovations.

A change to optimize global health relies on nursing to improve the wellness of individuals, families, and communities, and to build a culture of health with the use of emerging technologies. The digital recognition of global social determinants of health (SDoH) (World Health Organization, 2018), improving the provision of effective, efficient, equitable, and accessible care across the care continuum using emerging technologies is happening now (Carroll, 2020). Nurses are committing to developing and putting novel technologies into practice to meet essential global health goals. Along with their unique and valuable knowledge and abilities to tackle these challenging health care objectives, nurses serve as crucial change agents in the creation and application of technological functionality that bridge the delivery of health care and social needs in both urban and rural communities. This trend will only increase in the next decade and beyond.

Emerging Technologies: The What and Why

Making waves in modern healthcare to achieve the Quadruple Aim across the globe requires groundbreaking technologies full of possibilities for nursing practice. These inventions may delay investors, end-users, and patients due to their unknown qualities and functionality. To demystify these transformative technologies, they are, in short, characterized as reasonable and consistent among the composition of people, institutions, and their patterns of relations that use them (Rotolo et al., 2015). They persist over time and have the potential to make a considerable impact on the socio-economic domains. Revolutionary technologies used in healthcare, are those that have radical novelty, fast growth, noticeable effect, and are uncertain and ambiguous.

What makes these emerging technologies different is their ability to fully penetrate society, which breaks down siloes and moves them into healthcare settings. Due to globalization, the mounting economic and social interdependence between countries that shift the patterns of health and disease (Bradbury-Jones & Clark, 2017) impacts global health. Those being health issues uncontained geographically that single countries cannot address alone. With this phenomenon, emerging technologies are now used across the globe to help nurses improve care delivery and operations, whether in highly evolved or underserved regions. The best use of intelligent, immersive, and connected technologies in nursing starts with innovations that are adaptable worldwide to improve global health outcomes.

Emerging Technology Applications in Global Nursing Care Settings

Patients and healthcare workers in developed countries benefit from the accessibility, and robust use of these technologies, particularly in rural settings and poverty-stricken nations, which leads to inequity as these emerging technologies are expensive and highly resource-driven (Wahl et al., 2018). However, the tide is changing. Emerging technologies, including Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality, and the Internet of Things, are steadily becoming available globally to nurses to optimize care delivery and routine operations critical to patient care worldwide.

Artificial intelligence (AI)

Artificial intelligence (AI) is the aptitude exhibited by smart machines through perceiving, thinking, planning, learning, and the ability to manipulate objects (National Institution for Transforming India (NITI) Aayog, 2018). This technology enables computer systems to perform tasks that usually require human intelligence (Pan, 2016). Clinical intelligence is the product of its use in healthcare (Health Information and Management Systems Society, 2018) as it enables more precise and expedited decision making, particularly for nurses (Simpson, 2012). AI used in nursing practice improves efficiencies and decreases low-value administrative tasks allowing nurses more valuable time to spend with patients in care settings (Carroll, 2019).

Application of AI in a nursing care setting. At the Massachusetts Institute of Medicine (MIT), nurses are using AI-driven robotics on a labor and delivery unit to help with resource allocation decision making such as bed management and nurse staffing. MIT’s robots use machine learning computer vision techniques to read the current status of the hospital unit using speech recognition. The robot receives feedback from the resource nurse, making auditory suggestions enabling nurses to consider the robot’s recommendations and put them into practice based on critical thinking (Gombolay, et al, 2018).

Virtual Reality (VR)

Newly used in healthcare and nursing practice settings, Virtual Reality (VR) is a technology that immerses and transports a patient into a ‘virtual world.’ (Ficarra, 2020). VR is a multi-sensory experience enabling a user to perceive being present in a simulated environment (Chirico et al., 2018). VR is an entirely imaginary digital experience, providing a realistic recreation of a three–dimensional environment experienced and controlled by the movement of the body (Ficarra, 2020). VR excludes the external (real-world) environment, and it resembles real-life interactions (Chirico et al., 2018; Chan et al., 2018). The computer-simulated environment is accessed through a head-mounted display (HMD) (Li et al., 2011) allowing patients to have a fully immersed, non–clinical, more comforting experience.

Application of VR in a nursing care setting. Nurses in the United Kingdom are using VR in burn units to decrease the traumatizing instances in patient wound dressing changes with excellent results (Furness, 2019). This revolutionary technology brings a better experience for both the patient and the nurse, through the use of distraction, to create a more comforting atmosphere in a highly stressful clinical environment.

Internet of Things (IoT)

The universal architecture of the Internet of Things (IoT) consists of sensors and mechanisms called things located at the data perception level, such as people, objects, and smart devices (Alqahtani, 2018). Technology developers place things on IoT–gateways and data acquisition systems, followed by a data center (or remote server) and then into the cloud (Edoh & Degila, 2019). IoT–enabled systems are sophisticated, embedded technologies for sensing, connecting, and processing that bring advanced applications and services in real-time and across geographies, particularly in healthcare and nursing care settings (Mieronkoski, et al, 2017).

Application of IoT in a nursing care setting. An IoT–based system is being used in India to transmit critical warning signs to nurses for expectant mothers at high-risk for fetal and maternal distress symptoms in rural areas of the country. A wearable device alerts nurses via the electronic medical record at the closest hospitals, allowing nurses to provide medical assistance to mothers by bringing them to hospitals to receive timely and critical maternal care (Garage Staff, 2018).

These applications provide clear evidence that nurses are on the cutting-edge of delivering care using revolutionary technologies and will continue to be in the coming years. Collectively, these everyday use cases show that despite the care setting, nurses do promote health and healing using emerging technologies. And the adoption in practice environments is a catalyst for changing roles that will evolve how nurses use emerging technologies to impact patient care in the future. In the year 2020, nurses are transforming global health practice by harnessing emerging technologies and are furthering innovation into the next phase of tackling critical healthcare challenges worldwide.

Education and Research

At the beginning of this century, finding actual nursing use cases and applications for novel technologies worldwide in the literature are still tricky. Much discussion still abounds about if and when using emerging technologies in nursing care will happen. In truth, healthcare organizations and public health systems are using emerging technologies, and it is imperative to bring this to light. More research, education, and documented evidence about nurses employing emerging technologies are urgently needed to advance nursing care delivery and the profession. Nurses charge is to study and create a narrative to share their experiences and wisdom to highlight and teach what they do with emerging technologies to make a case for further adoption and applications to achieve the Quadruple Aim. The continual use of these emerging technologies in nursing globally to advance and improve care delivery–in both highly-developed and underserved countries–depends on the disseminating knowledge about using innovations that impact nursing care delivery and improve patient experience and outcomes. There is no better time than during 2020, the Year of the Nurse and Midwife, to do so.


The views and opinions expressed in this blog or by commenters are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of HIMSS or its affiliates.

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