This post was particularly interesting because of the way in which it highlights the involvement of the nursing and healthcare professions in the growing trend towards (smart) technology-based solutions to implementation solutions. The post highlights the ways in which healthcare information technology (HIT) utilises the interactive and self-service features of smart technology to solve a pressing health-care issue in a manner that can both cut costs and attract consumers.
However, particularly with its focus on senior citizens, this post raises a serious question, which is: what are the negative implications for patients of a technology-based solution to health-care issues? Laurie A. Huryk’s 2010 article in the Journal of Nursing Management, entitled “Factors Influencing Nurses’ Attitudes towards Healthcare Information Technology”, while containing an overall positive message about the response of nursing professionals to HIT, highlights three key concerns: poor system design, system malfunction, and dehumanization of patient care (Huryk, 2010, pp. 611-612). The first two of these concerns is of particular importance when considering the needs of senior citizen patients or other patients with potentially limited physical or mental capacity. As anyone who has prolonged contact with technology will acknowledge, the more complicated or sophisticated a piece of technology is, the greater the likelihood of it malfunctioning or simply being difficult to operate. While technology literacy is wide-spread in today’s society, it would be a mistake to assume it is total; for those with the greatest need for health-care, such as the elderly or the disabled, such literacy is also likely to be more challenging than might otherwise be the case. Where this is the case, the use of such technology to supplement or replace nursing or physician care might result in increased stress or distress for patients, as well as lower levels of access to care. The third of Huryk’s concerns, that of dehumanization, is also a wider social concern when it comes to the increasing use of technology, and studies have documented dehumanizing effects in many areas of technology use, from education to socialisation.
With these issues in mind, it seems reasonable to question the extent to which technology-based solutions are really as attractive as they might first appear, and whether such solutions are an equitable replacement for real-life contact with health-care professionals.
- Huryk, L. A. (2010). “Factors Influencing Nurses’ Attitudes towards Healthcare Information Technology.” Journal of Nursing Management, 18 (5), 606-612.