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Nurses must build evidence base for beneficial technology, says guru

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Nurses need to engage with technology and help build an evidence base on how it can help them, according to one of the profession’s leading experts on the subject.

If nurses wanted investment in technology, they must proactively seek out evidence to support its adoption, said Anne Cooper earlier this week at a Nursing Times conference in Manchester.

“We need nurses to step up and engage with this”

Anne Cooper

Ms Cooper, a former advisor on nursing informatics at both NHS England and the Department of Health, said one of her “key messages” was that the evidence base on nurse use of technology needed to improve because it was “not particularly strong”.

“There is still a lack of good quality evidence around technology,” she said. “It’s a lack of evidence, not evidence that says it doesn’t work, and I think we need to engage with that research agenda.

“If nurses are going to encourage investment in technology, we need to take seriously evaluation and a lot of nurses are still not getting that message,” said told delegates at Directors’ Congress.

“They still think it’s the province of IT departments to bring them the technology, but actually we need to be much, much more engaged with it than that,” said Ms Cooper who is currently clinical digital champion at Locala Community Partnerships – a community services social enterprise in West Yorkshire.

“We need nurses to step up and engage with this,” she said. “The technology agenda belongs to nurses and patients, and we need to lead it.

“I would like to think that using evidence, using evaluation we can start to think about how we can work with technology partners to get the best out of [it],” she added.

She highlighted the use of digital cameras by nurses, especially in community settings, which she said provided a “great opportunity” to monitor things like wound care.

Directors' Congress 2016

Nurses must build evidence for beneficial technology

Source: Andy Paraskos

Anne Cooper

However, Ms Cooper acknowledged that it was often a “tricky journey” to build the case to reinforce the implementation of technology, and that sometimes “things pull in opposite directions”.

She cited electronic health records as an example where the benefits were less obvious than was often claimed.

Evidence suggested electronic records did not necessarily reduce the “amount of documentation time but they do improve communication and they do make it safer”, she said.

Ms Cooper also warned that the “future has got lots of challenges”, including the fact that technology “doesn’t stay still” and quickly became outdated.

In addition, she noted difficulties around the integration of records used by clinicians and patients with long-term conditions.

Ms Cooper, who has type 1 diabetes herself, said: “How do we respectfully share records with the people that we care for, how do we evolve our professional standards around technology and the way we work, how do we get better evidence to guide us.”

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