Reflecting on the recent National Nurses Week, and as the American Nurses Association (ANA) storms Capitol Hill to raise awareness on safe staffing, Yorktel wants to acknowledge the critical importance of nurses on the front lines of healthcare.

According to ANA, nurses are all too often required to work long hours under stressful conditions, which in turn results in fatigue, injury, and job dissatisfaction for nurses. These unfair and unrealistic work conditions expose nurses to being more prone to mistakes and medical errors.The situation isn’t expected to improve any time soon. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the total number of additional RNs needed now through 2022 is 1,052,600.

The demand for new services by today’s healthcare consumers and the growing number of nurses retiring has also put a strain on the nursing workforce, ANA says.

Telehealth Offers Some Hope for Nursing Shortage

With such critical projected nursing shortages on the horizon and the overburdened nursing workforce currently in place, telehealth can provide a much-needed reprieve, not only for nurses who are stretched too thin, but to fill the gap in workforce, says Diane Castelli, RN, in a blog published by Lippincott NursingCenter.

Telehealth includes a growing variety of applications and services that can be particularly useful for nurses, including two-way video, transmission of still images, e-health including patient portals, remote monitoring of vital signs, continuing medical education, consumer-focused wireless applications and nursing call centers.

There are some even newer types of telehealth that include lens technologies, Bluetooth and USB devices that have made telehealth equipment lighter and easier to use for nurses and have helped push telemedicine along. Developers are coming up with more mobile apps for telehealth every day, and there has also been an increase in available types of telemedicine carts.

In addition, video teleconferencing (VTC) technology has advanced in the past couple years, with the capability of using a lower bandwidth. In the past, many doctors and nurses wanted to embrace VTC for telemedicine, but the technology wasn’t there. Video streams were choppy and the audio poor due to bandwidth restrictions. Networks and systems proved unreliable, and endpoints were designed without considering ease-of-use or even common sense. Also of note, was a glaring lack of training and ongoing support for clinical staff expected to operate devices with which they had no familiarity.

But with the technology changing and allowing better HD quality conferencing capabilities for telemedicine encounters, there has been a much larger adoption rate.

Despite all the positive aspects of telehealth, sometimes telehealth equipment is too cumbersome to give nurses the relief they seek. New “on-the-go” telehealth kits–can easily be carried into various remote and home care situations, for emergency or follow-up care with seniors, veterans and chronically ill patients. Portable telehealth kits should be packaged in ergonomic, lighter and far less bulky traditional telehealth systems.

The video compression technology should also deliver HD, encrypted, jitter-free, face-to-face patient consultations using bandwidth as low as 90 kb.

Telehealth should be made possible to nurses by providing standards-based, encrypted video communications that support interoperability and mobile point-of-care platforms. In addition, the assurance of video communication security and privacy, and best practices that adhere to protected health information standards and HIPAA compliance.

Saving Time and Enhancing Collaborative Care

Telehealth is speeding up the time to care by increasing access to doctors and nurses for patients virtually. That access can shorten the time to diagnose as well as to treatment. But telehealth also enhances collaborative care, making it easier for a team of doctors and nurses to assess a patient and determine the best care plan. Entire care teams, rather than an individual nurse or doctor, are increasing becoming the best practice to delivering improved patient outcomes.

Telehealth makes it now possible for a remote doctor to consult with a nurse onsite in real time, or for experienced nurses to mentor and assist younger nurses without having to be in the same room. Having that extra help looking over their shoulders is relieving some of the stress nurses experience when left alone to deal with multiple patient challenges. And seeing improving patient outcomes through faster delivery of care is providing the morale boost and increased job satisfaction knowing that nurses are making such a positive difference in so many patients’ lives.

To talk telehealth and see our portable solution, FeatherMed up close, please visit Yorktel at booth 1921 at the American Telehealth Association Annual Conference, May14-17 in Minneapolis.