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Nurses question safety of new technologies

May 15, 2014
by Richard R. Rogoski
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Nurses are the backbone of every long-term care facility and hospital. But a group of nurses says the adoption of new technologies is eroding standards of care and putting thousands of patients at risk.

Silver Spring, Md.-based National Nurses United (NNU) has launched a nationwide  print, radio, video and social media campaign to warn the public of the potential threats involved in the adoption of new technologies including electronic health records.

A press release on the group's website spells out these threats. For example, the group says that "digitalized care" is experimental and an unproven medical technology. "Bedside computers that diagnose and dictate treatment for patients, based on generic population trends not the health status or care needs of that individual patient, increasingly supplant the professional assessment and judgment of experienced nurses and doctors exposing patients to misdiagnosis, mistreatment, and life-threatening mistakes," says the NNU.

The organization further states: "Computerized electronic health records systems too often fail, leaving doctors and nurses in the dark without access to medical histories or medical orders. The Office of the Inspector General for the Health and Human Services Department has reported widespread flaws in the heavily promoted systems. Telemedicine and robotics marketed as improved care deprive patients of individualized care so essential to the therapeutic process central to healing.

Citing data from the American Hospital Association, NNU says hospital industry profits are at a record high, but that these profits are being spent on new technologies, Wall Street investments and buying up other hospitals—not on hiring nurses or improving the quality  of patient care. “The American healthcare system already lags behind other industrialized nations in a wide array of essential health barometers from infant mortality to life expectancy. These changing trends in health care threaten to make it worse,” said NNU Co-President Jean Ross, RN. “Behind every statistic is a patient, and their family, who are exposed to unnecessary suffering and risk as a result of the focus on profits rather than what is best for individual patient need.”