Once they are trained and licensed by their state, family nurse practitioners (FNPs) have a significant scope of practice. In many parts of the US, they can diagnose a condition and prescribe a course of medication independently. Wherever they work, FNPs educate patients about their health, carry out preventive care such as inoculation programs, and maintain patient records.
Early adoption enhances patient care
Technology has touched upon almost every aspect of this role. It has improved patient outcomes, given clinicians more treatment options, and had a transformative effect on the entire US health system. As health innovations continue to inform medicine, practitioners must understand what these advances have to offer. Additionally, they must develop the skills needed to apply these resources effectively, either on the ward or in their office.
Passing on the required skills through education
Working professionals who are considering this career path will be taught how to integrate innovations such as health informatics and telehealth into their practice as part of their FNP qualification. At Texas Woman’s University, the online MSN FNP programs have been designed for degree-level nurses hoping to move into a more senior position and can be completed in two years. The focus is on advanced nursing that benefits a diverse population and delivers an excellent experience to every patient.
How can health informatics assist family nurse practitioners?
The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society is a US non-profit that frequently acts as an advisor and leader when it comes to harnessing the power of IT in health. The organization describes health informatics as the planning, development and delivery of medical services, through the use of technology.
In part, informatics relies on the healthcare industry’s ability to collect colossal amounts of data and then feed this information into computers that provide a digital representation of human health. Armed with large amounts of evidence-based information, FNPs can refine the care they provide in terms of delivery and planning, and ensure better outcomes for their patients. This process is enhanced by a range of subsidiary digital technologies, from cloud-based storage to tablets, wearables and software platforms that support telehealth.
Errors are reduced and care is made more efficient
According to a 2021 study, if medical errors were a disease, they would be the “third leading cause of death in the US”. It’s a worrying thought, but although the healthcare system is manned by trained, experienced professionals, human errors still impact patient care. Health informatics can lower the risk of this occurring by giving FNPs access to technologies such as clinical decision support systems. These systems can be accessed from an app or a platform on the nurse’s computer. They generate insights based on large amounts of data and can inform the decision-making process. Nurses can use them to create personalized treatment plans that are tailored to the individual needs of a patient and then monitor the person’s progress, to determine how well the therapy works.
This enhanced care can lead to a reduction in the number of visits that a patient has to make to their FNP. Therefore, it also lowers waiting lists and reduces the workload of nurses. As these systems can also alert nurses to errors, the risk of a patient receiving the wrong diagnosis or medication is lowered. Furthermore, the information produced by clinical decision support systems can be made available by the FNP’s office through a platform such as a patient portal. Patients can log on to learn more about their health and their medical history, which may lead to them making better choices and adopting healthier habits.
Care is coordinated between clinicians, wards, and departments
By making the same information available to every practitioner, health informatics makes it easier to coordinate and unify patient care. FNPs may need to work alongside other health professionals to deliver care to patients with chronic disease or a condition that requires frequent hospitalizations. By reviewing the care that has already been provided on a shared digital platform and understanding the patient’s medical history, FNPs can provide appropriate care that does not clash with or repeat that of other practitioners.
Multiple appointments during a single hospital visit
In a hospital setting, FNPs can work alongside multiple professionals to deliver care simultaneously, over the course of one day. This integrated approach means that the patient receives optimal care on one visit, rather than having to return for each individual appointment. By establishing a single location for recording, sharing, and circulating a patient’s records, health informatics allows FNPs to interrelate different aspects of a person’s care, ensuring that they connect well and avoid problems.
The storage and retrieval of patient records are improved
Looking back into the late 1980s and even the early 1990s, electronic health records (EHRs) were not present in every hospital and physician’s office. Even now, a small minority of healthcare facilities use a paper-based system to store information. This makes it difficult to store vitally important data safely. It can lead to paperwork being lost, test results being destroyed or misplaced, and as a result, patient outcomes are negatively impacted.
Cloud software makes records available nationwide
Health informatics has vastly improved the standard of EHRs, meaning that FNPs can access the information they need and find the necessary image files swiftly. When nurses meet a patient who has a new or undiagnosed condition, they can update their EHR and be confident that the information is available to other health professionals who could form part of a future care team. Thanks to cloud software, even if a patient lives in another state, the details of their visit with the FNP will be accessible by another nurse or a physician. As well as saving time and resources, this ensures that patients receive the treatment they need quickly and results in better medical outcomes.
Patients are empowered to manage their health
FNPs play a vital role in digitizing their patients’ health records. They record data accurately and with clarity so that the required information is always on hand. This is useful to patients because now everyone can access their health history through digital records. As a result, people can manage their health or their conditions more effectively, and they can make decisions on when to seek help and what constitutes an emergency. By encouraging patients to be partners in their own care and giving them the tools to do so, FNPs boost engagement and keep medical costs low.
Marketing healthcare is refined
FNPs who have a private practice need a steady stream of patients to keep their business running successfully. Part of this will hinge on the quality of care they provide and the relationships they develop with the people who come to them for help. However, to publicize their service, FNPs need to market their practice and showcase what they have to offer. Healthcare technology can drive this process in several ways. By using images and videos in their advertising, FNPs can provide patients with information in a familiar and accessible way. This allows people to find out about the treatments that an FNP can provide and what they might expect from a visit to the practice.
Access to training is improved
Lifelong learning is a commitment undertaken by all healthcare professionals. For FNPs, the opportunity to extend their knowledge and areas of expertise is always welcome, but finding the time can be a challenge. Nurses may struggle to find cover if they are working in a busy city hospital with staff shortages, but in rural locations, the problem is often just as severe. To bypass the problem and ensure that FNPs have access to education, technology can facilitate their learning.
Access to online courses is simple for anyone who has an internet connection and a smart gadget. Modern programs include pre-recorded lectures, remote study tools, instructive videos and simulation kits that enhance the experience. FNPs can use these resources to gain competencies in new areas of medicine or take additional certifications that broaden their scope of practice.
How can telehealth enhance the work of FNPs?
FNPs use telehealth in several ways. They can communicate with patients in real-time during phone or video calls, share data or information with patients, or monitor their patients remotely using wearable technology. Telehealth can be used to monitor a person’s weight, blood pressure, and oxygen levels through a digital platform or a wearable device.
FNPs can set up a portal for their clinic that allows people to book or cancel appointments, request prescriptions, and more. This saves time on administration and cuts instances of missed appointments. They can use telehealth to enhance their preventive care efforts by sending out text or email reminders when it’s time for routine vaccinations, a mammogram, or a cervical screening.
These practices are cost-effective, are ideal for patients with mobility issues, and improve access to care for people in remote areas. Telehealth practices can lower costs for hospitals, as chronic diseases are managed more effectively and readmission rates are reduced. Telehealth bloomed during the coronavirus pandemic, which made both medics and patients more open to using it afterward.
Monitoring of patient care leads to greater levels of consistency
FNPs can provide patients with wearable devices, such as heart monitors, to track their health and view the information in real-time, without an examination. As the data is visible to both the nurse and the patient, people can see how their body is reacting to certain situations or treatments, and as a result, they are likely to become more engaged with their recovery.
Furthermore, FNPs can see how a medication is working and learn more about their patient’s condition without having to call them in for an appointment. These constant updates can improve accuracy when it comes to a diagnosis and also the usefulness of a care plan. Remote monitoring means that clinics and hospitals can direct their resources to patients with the most concerning symptoms and see them quickly. Therefore, digital symptom monitoring plays a key role in lowering waiting lists, but it does so without compromising the safety of patients.
Tackling the physician shortage
There is a shortage of medical professionals across most areas of the US healthcare system and this includes a lack of primary care physicians. Therefore, patients find it hard to get an appointment with a clinician who can help them get well, and as a result, many end up in crowded ER rooms needing immediate attention. FNPs can relieve some of this pressure by seeing more patients through telehealth appointments. Without the need for patients to attend in person, telehealth visits tend to be faster, and this allows FNPs to take on more appointments per hour. As patients are already familiar with remote care because of its use during the pandemic, most are comfortable with managing their health virtually.
Interprofessional collaboration is facilitated effortlessly
FNPs often have to collaborate with other healthcare professionals in different wards, departments, or facilities. At the best of times, the workflow in medical settings is complex, as it involves various people spread across several locations. This makes it harder for the team to pinpoint the information or results they need and get tasks completed quickly. Using collaborative technology, such as cloud-based sharing and digital platforms that offer access to the entire team, it is easier to manage, access, and share data. As a result, FNPs can track the progress of their patient’s treatment, avoid repeating therapies, and keep their patients updated on test results and any other important news.
Why is healthcare technology so relevant to family nurse practitioners?
Health technology and informatics will remain important to FNPs as the US healthcare system strives to improve care and achieve health equity. Advancements linked to communication, diagnosis, and treatment will play a vital role in connecting FNPs to other professionals and their patients, making their service more accessible. By understanding and adopting new technologies as they evolve, professionals will be able to provide the safest, most efficient, and effective patient care.