Dr Harro Stokman, CEO of Kepler Vision Technologies image
Dr Harro Stokman, CEO of Kepler Vision Technologies

Dr Harro Stokman, CEO of Kepler Vision Technologies, discusses why placing health and care staff at the heart of technology creation for patients is crucial for making solutions that genuinely improve patient outcomes and empower overstretched staff to stay in their roles.

Technology in the healthcare industry has made tremendous strides over the last few decades. It has meant the difference between years of healthy independence or a protracted decline for millions of people worldwide by making it easier for people to take care of themselves or healthcare workers to take care of them.

While there are plenty of promising advancements on the horizon that will take this even further – making it ever easier to keep people healthy for longer – we are living in a particularly crowded time for tech-led improvements. Away from the cutting-edge, patients, healthcare workers, and high-level healthcare decision-makers are bombarded by high numbers of startlingly similar solutions, each claiming to be a panacea for every problem in the healthcare space.

While there are definitely standout solutions that offer definitive advantages over rivals, at the more basic end of the scale, far too many of these solutions offer things so similar as to be indistinguishable. How much difference is there between 20 kinds of motion detectors for a patient’s room? Or a wearable that tracks a patient’s locations?

While the difference in patient’s wellbeing may be negligible, what is still consistently overlooked is how these competing, interconnected, and overlapping systems impact staff.

The industry’s propensity for implementing solutions that make things more complicated for care staff is at odds with who in the healthcare space has the best idea of how a system will function in practice. After all, who is best positioned to understand what impact a new tech solution will have on the ground? Not the patients, not the C-suite, rarely the mid-level decision-makers. But on-the-ground frontline care staff? Certainly.

While a globally ageing population means we are very unlikely to run out of patients or people needing care – the same cannot be said for care staff. In fact, following the pandemic the care staff crisis is being felt more acutely than ever. A substantial number of staff have left the industry, and many others are considering their next move. A staggering 60 percent of Gen Z and millennial nurses say they would leave or were considering leaving their positions, according to a survey done by the American Nurses Foundation, further adding pressure to overworked staff that remain.

Another global survey from McKinsey cited that one of the main reasons nurses were considering leaving was due to wanting to maintain their own wellbeing.

This is exactly why healthcare decision-makers need to rethink how they are approaching decision-making when it comes to technological solutions – placing frontline healthcare workers at the centre of the decision-making process when it comes to procurement and implementation of technological solutions.

Every health tech solution for improving patient care looks good on paper. Whether it’s the implementation of smart bed technology that can help nurses track patients’ movement, weight, and vitals; wearable devices that help track heart rates, exercise, sleep, etc.; or even just centralising and standardising a patient’s electronic health records.

But without input from frontline workers, how do you evaluate how effective a system will be in situ? Is the smart bed going to deliver actionable data in a way that is easy to process and respond? Will staff be able to convince patients that wearable devices are for their own good and that they need to keep them on? Are the electronic health records easily accessible to those who need them, and completely secure from who doesn’t? In worst-case scenarios, implementing any one of these “solutions” unnecessarily can end up putting additional strain on staff as they strive to integrate them with their existing day-to-day tasks.

To spotlight an area that is ripe for tech-based improvement, let’s look at the area of patient monitoring. There are literally thousands of solutions offering to monitor patients’ vitals, locations, positions, and more available to choose from, most of which sell themselves on the basis of improving patients’ health and wellbeing, with considerably less consideration for improving the lives of staff.

Take our own Kepler Vision Night Nurse solution, a computer vision-powered monitoring solution used to detect when patients have fallen down, when they are in physical distress, and when patients with dementia wander into areas that are not supposed to. The ability to send alerts to staff when this happens, and only send alerts to staff when this happens, means that not only are patients receiving better and more immediate care, but staff do not have to waste time doing unnecessary in-person door-to-door checks, or responding to false alarms. This means they can use their time on delivering important in-person care where it is the most meaningful – which many cite as a main reason they stay in the profession.

This need to rebalance tech-led solutions towards nurses, carers, and care staff doesn’t mean healthcare managers are removed from the decision-making process, looped out in favour of care staff and nurses exclusively. In fact, their role is more important than ever in deciding which solutions to implement and weighing the cost of them versus paying care staff more. (As incredible as some technological solutions are, never underestimate the mental health benefits of paying someone more).

This approach naturally requires a rethink for healthcare facility decision-makers. The most important component of this being that care staff really do want systems that lighten their workload, as long as they do actually lighten their workload. Case and point, many nurses in the NHS feel like they are in the ‘Stone Age’. Formal training is imperative at a time when 55 percent of frontline workers complain that they hadn’t received formal training on how to use new technology, with 46 percent fearing it may cost them their jobs if they don’t adapt quickly to it.

Everyone wants to provide the best possible experience for their patients. But overlooking the voices and contributions of the staff actually caring for them will do nothing but create further unnecessary issues. We know technology can and does benefit carers and patients alike, but innovating for the sake of it and without consulting the staff who will use it will just cause further burnout and thus staff shortages.

Creating a dialogue with our workers is crucial. Knowing what they want in regards to new technology will aid in lowering their stress and help simplify tasks. We want to change the perception of working in the healthcare industry. Better technology that lowers the workload and stress for carers can help to start this change in perception.

With a better workplace we can expect better labour retention and more interest for roles in the industry, creating a virtuous cycle that improves the quality of care we can give to patients.

Over 7,000 healthcare professionals stay informed about the latest assistive technology with AT Today. Do you?
We respect your privacy