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Technology's ONE Limitation

Technology's ONE Limitation

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How many times in the last year have you heard this?

"We are implementing a new technology that is will help improve patient safety."

It's true. Technology improves communication, eliminates unnecessary pathways, refines processes, and can generally cut down on time. However, when it comes to the one chain in the link that requires a human to act or react, there is an usually opportunity for error.

These days, I can make a list in five seconds off the top of my head of the number of alarms that I hear within a ten minute span. For example:

  • My phone rings (and rings and rings)
  • The bed alarm goes off
  • The call bell dings
  • Another nurse's patient calls and I get a ding to my phone
  • Another nurse's patient's bed alarms goes off and I get an emergent sounding ding
  • A staff assist button in pushed and I hear another emergent ding
  • Pulse oximetry beeping
  • Telemetry dock at the nurse's station is beeping

Here's my point: There' are a million ways that technology can alert you to respond or react by alarming, or beeping, or dinging, or ringing. However, if the staff is stretched too thin and no one is able to respond, the system will fail. 

In moments where technology alerts us, but staffing has failed us, resulting in harm to patient or staff member, keep this empowering suggestion in the back of your head:

Instead of citing in the incident report that "the bed alarm didn't go off," or some statement about the human's failure to respond to technology, reach beyond that to the real problem. Most of the time, if a technology is in place and there is no one around to respond, then the failure is in the staffing. We must be able to speak to that, promote safe staffing in our incident reports, and follow up with our management team afterwards. Shared accountability and safe staffing is what makes a safe and healthy work environment. You can have every piece of fancy technology but without proper staffing, it will not work.

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