Does the USA nursing shortage provide any technology opportunities?

The University of Maryland’s Center for Health Work Force Development says we will be short 1,000,000 nurses by 2015. The causes for the shortages are well known and documented; however, the solutions are not very forthcoming. I’ve been involved in projects that tried to bring in nurses from foreign countries like Phillipines, Pakistan, and India through the U.S. Immigration’s H1-B program but that’s not a complete solution either.

Although nursing is a service sector that we can’t automate ourselves out of, are there any ideas that you’d like to share for specific technologies or solutions that may help relieve the nursing shortage pressure? Send me an email about your ideas if you’d like to keep them anonymous or post comments here. I’ll collect the email responses and write a summary if there’s enough interest.

An interesting discussion about this issue of opportunities in optimizing nursing services comes from a January 2005 Healthcare Financial Management article:

Did you hear the one about the hospital that planned to save $125,000 a month in nursing costs by computerizing medical administration records and ended up, instead, having to hire a systems analyst with a nursing degree to set the system up? Don’t wait for the punchline, says Vince Ciotti, principal at HIS Professionals, LLC, Santa Fe, N.M.; it’s no joke. “This system,” the vendor explained, “can save nurses 20 minutes a day.” So the hospital did some simple calculations–500 nurses times 20 minutes a day equals 5,000 hours a month, times $25 an hour–and concluded that they could save $125,000 a month.

Eventually, the hospital came to realize that calculating the costs and benefits of information technology (IT) on the basis of fractions of an FTE was simply not a realistic approach. Furthermore, many of the frills that had seemed so attractive on the trade show floor couldn’t be used without upgrading the hospital’s current computer system–a project for which it had not budgeted. On the other hand, it turned out that the new system, even without using the bells and whistles, made it possible to cut both the nurse turnover rate and the rate of medication-related errors–something the nursing staff members themselves could have anticipated, had anybody thought to ask them.

Read on….

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