The impact of technology on healthcare in Australia
Technology in Australian healthcare is evolving rapidly, which is improving outcomes for patients and opening up new opportunities for nurses. From capital cities to regional outposts, information technology (IT) and data management are becoming as important as traditional nursing skills for managing patient care.
With insights from James Cook University, Deloitte Access Economics has highlighted the impact of technology on Australian healthcare in its report. The future of work: occupational and educational trends in nursing in Australia.
Technology makes Australian healthcare more accessible
Deloitte reports that the way nursing care is delivered and managed has changed with the introduction of new technologies. Healthcare technology lifts the constraints on who can deliver healthcare and where it can be delivered.
Wearable and portable devices empower patients to self-manage their care and to receive additional care outside of hospital settings. Meanwhile, point-of-care testing (where medical diagnostic testing of the patient is performed on site) is becoming more available in a larger number of smaller clinics.
“We're starting to see point-of-care testing shifting to smaller metropolitan centres and then going to more rural areas. The benefit of that is that clinicians have access now to [things like] pathology results almost instantly,” says Dr John Smithson, Senior Lecturer and Deputy Head of Nursing and Midwifery at James Cook University (JCU).
Nurses will be engaging with patients in new ways and through different channels. In addition to learning how to operate and oversee relevant healthcare technology in the course of their work, they’ll need to be able to educate patients in using it as well.
Government initiatives support technology in nursing
Deloitte’s report highlights that healthcare technology such as telehealth is being embedded into government strategy. In NSW, there is a commitment to building telehealth into clinical practice through training and investment in new technologies.
“Telehealth simply involves people accessing healthcare through technological means such as video conferencing and other similar means as opposed to being there with the clinician live,” says Dr Smithson.
Data management is key to modern nursing
Aside from flexibility, Dr Smithson says healthcare technology is providing greater access to much more data. “Going back 10 [or] 20 years, a lot of data was collected on paper and never saw the digital environment. But so much of our data now is being collected digitally, so that means we've got vast amounts of patient data available to us.” Deloitte reports that patient privacy and data security issues could become a greater concern for nursing professionals in the future.
In addition to negotiating regulations around privacy, the increase in data will enable greater collaboration with primary healthcare workers. This fine balance between privacy and collaboration will require nurses to develop skills in data management.
The impact of technology requires nurses with higher qualifications
While nurses in Australian healthcare will require IT and data management skills, there’s a range of additional capabilities that will also be sought after. “There'll be a demand for nurses who can provide complex care and manage complex situations whether that be clinical situations or managerial situations,” says Dr Smithson.