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AI in Nursing: Insights for Healthcare Leaders

Siel Ji
November 7, 2023
January 17, 2024

The profession of nursing has gone through rapid changes in recent years. While nurses have always been on the frontlines of patient care, today’s nurses face heavier workloads and ever-rising expectations — amid an ongoing shortage of professionals.

In this shifting landscape, cutting-edge technology like AI promises to serve as a helping hand. Yet with new technologies come new hurdles. The healthcare world is changing at warp speed, and nurses often have to play catch-up with complex new systems. Moreover, when it comes to healthcare tools in hospitals, healthcare leaders, not the nurses, usually make the decisions. Thus, it's up to healthcare leaders to understand the possibilities AI brings to nursing and harness its potential to improve healthcare.

How AI Can Support Nurses

AI is already changing healthcare practices, potentially leading to improved patient care and outcomes, as well as cost savings in healthcare. Take medication management, for instance. Today's AI tools can track patients' medication lists, flagging potential drug interactions and suggesting personalized medication schedules. This supports nurses in their quest to ensure patients take their medications safely and effectively.

AI tools can also take care of administrative tasks and gather patient information. AI-driven chatbots can engage with patients to collect data about their symptoms, medication adherence, and general health status. This valuable information enables nurses to deliver more tailored care while reducing administrative burdens and enhancing workflows to help mitigate nurse burnout.

AI can also play a significant role in remote patient monitoring. AI-driven health monitoring systems can continuously gather and analyze patient vital signs, including heart rate, blood pressure, and oxygen levels. This capability enables nurses to swiftly and accurately identify changes in a patient's condition.

Beyond tracking information and assisting with communication, AI can crunch large amounts of data, and its predictive analytics hold a lot of promise. Through data analysis, AI can identify patients at risk of complications like sepsis or falls, allowing nurses to intervene early and prevent these issues. In primary care, AI and algorithms can prompt healthcare providers to screen patients for specific conditions or enroll them in relevant programs based on clinical data.

Balancing AI with Human Skills 

As AI tools get more advanced, however, new questions inevitably spring up. For example, the use of AI or automation in clinical decision-making can place nurses in a delicate position where they must either unquestioningly follow the AI's recommendations without critical thinking or decide to override the AI's guidance. 

While AI can enhance patient care, there is a risk that it may not capture nuanced patient conditions or nurses' clinical judgments. For example, AI may suggest administering a fluid bolus based on data, but an experienced nurse could determine that the patient has underlying heart issues and needs a different intervention. 

The hesitance among doctors and nurses to fully embrace AI stems from the fear that inexperienced healthcare providers might blindly follow AI recommendations, potentially harming patients. This challenge of balancing AI with nursing expertise is at the heart of the debate surrounding AI's role in nursing. As physician and Stanford professor Abraham Verghese argues, “True clinical judgment is more than addressing the avalanche of blood work, imaging and lab tests; it is about using human skills to understand where the patient is in the trajectory of a life and the disease, what the nature of the patient’s family and social circumstances is and how much they want done.”  

When making technology decisions, healthcare leaders must proactively address the impact of AI on patient care and carefully consider whether the use of AI is flexible and allows for nursing discretion. They must clarify whether AI will serve as a source of recommendations and reminders or if it will assume a more dominant role in guiding care. These explicit definitions are crucial for preparing and educating staff, especially those who may harbor distrust toward AI due to limited prior experience with technology. 

Overcoming this skepticism will be a significant challenge, particularly among nurses who began their careers with paper charting and have reservations about transitioning to AI-driven methods. In essence, healthcare leaders should establish organizational foundations, ready their staff, and prioritize clear communication to facilitate a smooth transition into AI-driven healthcare, both for the nursing staff and patients. Educating staff on AI's capabilities and purposes is pivotal in bridging the gap between technological advancements and the workforce's ability to harness them effectively. 

At Veta Health, we prioritize the human touch alongside AI assistance. We use smart technology and AI-driven care pathways to navigate patients through personalized health journeys and to offer valuable recommendations and content. Moreover, our AI-powered health alert system sends notifications to track patients' progress and specific health indicators. At the same time, our solution offers flexibility for healthcare providers to customize the care experience according to individual requirements. Contact us to learn more about Veta Health's AI-enabled, human-directed virtual solution. 

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