In the past, part of the appeal for science fiction movies was imagining how life would be if some of the wondrous technologies being portrayed on the big screen became a reality. Today, if we sat down and watched some of those science fiction movies from the 1970’s, we would probably chuckle at the technologies that we thought were unattainable back then. Tech devices of today have evolved far beyond the imaginations of just a few decades ago. In fact, you don’t even have to be a denizen of Silicon Valley to bear witness to the latest technologies, as anyone in the healthcare industry can attest.
Let’s take a look at the emerging technologies that are already having or will soon have a profound impact on our healthcare and nursing professionals.
- Robotics – Nurses of tomorrow will have an assistant at hand when they are assessing and caring for their patient. Advancements in robotics have been profound in recent years and with additional research to validate the comparative effectiveness, should become a routine addition to the care plan. Robotics can provide enhanced diagnostic abilities and have the ability to administer smaller, more precise interventions.
- Laser Imaging – Digital imaging technology is advancing faster than we consumers can keep up with, case in point, the incredible pictures we can take with our smartphones. That same technology times ten is making its way into our hospitals and medical offices. One particular area that laser and imaging technology is particularly useful is in wound management. Nurses are using small, hand-held laser imaging devices to accurately measure and record a 3-Dimensional image of a patient’s wound. Other benefits include real-time data showing wound progression which can lead to a reduction in patient visits.
- Virtual Reality (VR) – Not just for the video gaming crowd any longer, virtual reality is quickly working its way into the healthcare industry. Nurses will be learning to master this new technology that has generated extremely effective results in pain management. VR is an immersive, computer-generated environment that can recreate sensory experiences and even stimulate a presence in alternative locations. Applications include the treatment of depression and PTSD, robotic surgery, and enabling a reduction in the need for pain medications. For nurses and providers, VR will be used to simulate procedures and provide skills training. Demand for this technology is far outpacing actual implementations due to the current costs and a lack of available training.
- 3-D Printing – Straight out of Star Wars, 3-D Printers are finally here. Called Bio-printers, these devices utilize a specialized “ink” made up of living cell mixtures and have the ability to build a 3-dimensional structure of cells to form human tissue. Eventually, we may even be able to “print” a human organ. Unfortunately, the development of biological materials used for printing is not advancing as quickly as the printing technology itself. In the nearer term, however, nurses will be able to print precision replacements for skin wounds and grafts.
- Wearable Technology – Already widely available, wearable technology is doing everything from measuring our pulse, physical activities, sleep patterns, and much more. Nurses will soon have access to a variety of wearable tech that will provide them with real-time access to diagnostic information, history, decision support, and above all keeping their hands free. Patients will have similar access to wearable devices that will aid in both on-site and remote monitoring of vital conditions. Advances are being made in wearable devices that provide pain management via electronic stimulation rather than pharmaceuticals. Today, many nurses can be found carrying their tablets around to provide them access to information and data, tomorrow; they will be wearing a combination of high-tech glasses and a film that is applied to the back of their hand to act as the display. Now, how cool is that?
In addition to the incredible technologies that we have discussed here, there are also other advances that are changing the nursing profession. For example, tomorrow’s nurse will have to take a deeper dive into understanding genetics and the genomic elements of disease and chronic illness. Nurses have already been immersed into accessing and managing Electronic Medical Records (EMRs), the next step in retaining security of confidential healthcare information will be through the utilization of biometric markers, such as a fingerprint, retinal scan, etc.
It is safe to say that the nursing profession will be riding the wave of technological advances long into the future. As the technology changes so do the models of care, however, the component that will never change is the therapeutic value of personal interaction from nurse to patient. We would love to hear your thoughts about the emerging technologies that are already becoming a part of your daily life as a nursing professional. Leave us a comment in the section below, or drop us a line on our Facebook page.