Challenges and Solutions in Virtual Health Care for Nurses

Siel Ju
December 5, 2023
January 17, 2024

In the not-so-distant past, virtual care was a somewhat unconventional option, with just 1% of patients using it in February 2020. But the healthcare landscape changed dramatically with the Covid-19 crisis. By 2022, 38% of patients reported receiving virtual healthcare, with 76% expressing a desire to continue its use. This shift has meant a rapid adaptation for nurses, who have transitioned from conducting traditional assessments to virtual ones. The evolving landscape has even given rise to specific roles tailored for virtual care, such as remote patient monitoring (RPM) care managers.

These new care solutions go far beyond merely offering virtual appointments as a makeshift solution when in-person options are limited. Instead, virtual care is now used for continuous health monitoring, personalized approaches, and improved long-term care. The focus has shifted towards exploring ways to enhance remote monitoring and leveraging AI to achieve improved health outcomes.

This transformation doesn't come without its challenges, however. In the last four years, nurses have had to make a myriad of fast adjustments to adapt to more technologically advanced healthcare norms.

Navigating the digital divide

In the virtual healthcare landscape, technological challenges loom large. Nurses who were once comfortable with traditional methods now find themselves grappling with a new digital environment. The rapid transition forced by the pandemic caught many nurses unprepared, lacking formal training or established best practices for virtual care. Nurses suddenly had to learn new systems.

The struggle wasn’t — and isn’t — just limited to older generations, however. Because technologies in remote care have been evolving and advancing so quickly in the last few years, the vast majority of healthcare providers have had to continuously adapt to new digital gadgets and systems.

That can be a challenging and time-consuming task when simultaneously juggling a high volume of patient care responsibilities. As acting liaisons between patients and doctors, nurses often not only need to adapt to new technologies themselves, but also step in as impromptu tech support help for colleagues and other healthcare staff.  When tech systems are difficult to work with, nurses are often the most heavily affected. Many nurses can recount instances of doctors and colleagues struggling with virtual charting systems, leading to delayed or incomplete documentation. 

Nurses also need to help patients use new technologies — or older technologies that may be new to patients. Patients may need to be coached through the proper use of devices like blood pressure cuffs or pulse oximeters. The technological hurdles extend to issues like wifi access and cellular connectivity, too. Nurses are charged with getting patients connected and up to speed, often through remote instruction.

Empowering nurses for virtual healthcare

Navigating the complexities of new technologies inevitably brings a learning curve and challenges. However, healthcare organizations hold the key to facilitating a smoother transition for nurses. 

To begin, when filling remote-heavy roles, organizations should give priority to selecting nurses who are either already comfortable with technology or express an interest and eagerness to become more tech-savvy. It's crucial to recognize that if a nurse encounters difficulties with basic tech-oriented tasks, placing them in an entirely remote role might not yield the most effective results. Instead of simply assigning roles without consideration, careful attention should be paid to matching the right nurses with the right responsibilities.

In addition, organizations should offer comprehensive training programs that cover not only the usage of individual devices but also guide nurses on best practices for virtual interactions, such as conducting remote patient assessments. By dedicating resources to enhance technological literacy among staff, healthcare organizations ensure a more efficient and effective integration of technology into healthcare practices.

Above all, it is crucial to involve nurses in the decision-making process concerning technology. Nurses can offer valuable insights on what systems or tools work best for them and their teams. Plus, given their proximity to patients, nurses have a strong understanding of patient preferences around technology. Including nurses in the development process ensures better buy-in and, consequently, the success of programs; frustration arises when nurses are expected to adapt to technology without a voice. 

Mastering the virtual shift

As virtual healthcare becomes an integral part of the healthcare landscape, addressing technological challenges is a priority for many organizations. Continuous training and advocacy for nurses can bridge the gap and create a collaborative environment. By embracing the digital transformation with empathy and adaptability, nurses can better navigate the challenges, ensuring that patient care remains personalized and effective in the digital age.

For nurses, healthcare staff members, and organizations who seek to optimize their remote healthcare programs, Veta Health offers a new training solution. Our Engagement Nursing in Virtual Care: A Comprehensive Course for Telehealth Excellence — crafted by seasoned remote care nurses — is now available as a self-paced online course. The eight-module program covers inclusive remote care, patient-nurse relationship building, and much more. Enroll online today.

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