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Addressing the Challenge of Average Nurse-to-Patient Ratio in Hospitals

Addressing the Challenge of Average Nurse-to-Patient Ratio in Hospitals

The average nurse-to-patient ratio in hospitals presents a challenge that IT managers can take a proactive role in addressing by rethinking a core component of their mobile strategy.

If you’re unfamiliar with that metric, it’s commonly cited, largely because nurse-to-patient ratios are found to correlate so strongly with patient well-being. RNAction.org explains the relationship, and stresses the direct connection to reducing “patient falls, infections, medication errors and even death.”

Nursing Profession Pressure

Healthcare organizations face multifaceted pressures in response to keeping nursing metrics at acceptable levels.

States across the nation, including California, Texas, Illinois and New York have either enacted legislation or adopted regulations requiring facilities to maintain specific staffing levels. At the same time, that pressure is compounded by an impending shortage of registered nurses (RNs) that is only expected to become more severe as baby boomers’ healthcare needs increase. To further complicate the issue, the schools that produce nurses are struggling to expand their capacities to meet demand. These dynamics mean that not only do facilities need to optimize the effectiveness of their current nursing staff, they’re incentivized to ensure the well-being and continued productivity of their existing professionals.

How Can Unlocked Phones Boost Productivity?

How Smartphones Can Help Nurses Today

Smartphones hold significant potential to improve the efficiency of nurse communications and workflows, and thereby minimize the impact of the low average nurse-to-patient ratio in hospitals.

First off, the use of smartphones by nurses is already happening. According to MobiHealthNews, a survey conducted by market intelligence firm InCrowd revealed that 95 percent of the 241 responding nurses owned a smartphone, and 88 percent were using them at work — and not just for the sake of convenience.

Nurses are using their phones in ways that directly impact care — 52 percent indicated that they use apps on their phones to access information (instead of asking colleagues), and a full 32 percent indicated that they consult their smartphones instead of a physician. It’s worth noting that nurses need different functionality from their smartphones than doctors, specifically in quickly accessing information, supporting workflows and setting timers for medication administration.

The Importance of Unlocked Devices

Any hospital with a mobile strategy that prioritizes efficiency, flexibility and cost maintenance should consider unlocked smartphones for their device fleet.

Unlocked smartphones end carrier dependence, so they can be deployed for use on existing Wi-Fi connections, removing the expense of a carrier plan. Nurses can then be granted the ability to access a broader range of Android apps, EHR-connected solutions and even proprietary software options with unlocked phones.

How Hospitals Can Leverage Unlocked Smartphones

The first steps in positively influencing the average nurse-to-patient ratio in hospitals are understanding measurement and determining target ratios based on regulatory requirements and historic outcomes.Once those are established, hospital leadership can begin evaluating where unlocked smartphones fit in their mobile strategy, keeping the following areas in mind:

Adaptation: New smartphones will require active conversations and training to help nursing staff adapt as quickly as possible.

Mobile app use: Since staff will have access to an entirely new world of apps, it will be crucial to develop and communicate standards and safeguards around app access and use.

Individual empowerment: More sophisticated devices mean increased empowerment for professionals and a better overall work experience.

Open conversations with the nurses on the front line of patient care will be the key to any successful device program. Most importantly though, ITDMs should look at unlocked smartphones as a step toward a connected framework for the hospital of the future.