In today’s modern care practices, the integration of technology in healthcare settings has long been known to increase patient engagement and improve health outcomes. Nurses play an important role in this endeavour by acknowledging the advancement of health information technology (HIT) systems and the potential benefits to patient and staffs.

Previous studies conducted in outpatient settings have shown that the HIT system has great potential to improve patient engagement and facilitate communication with care providers.

Interactive patient engagement technologies (iPET)

Interactive patient engagement technologies (iPET) is the newest health information technology (HIT) system that incorporates health education, self-management, communication and distraction therapies for patients. The delivery of iPET systems can be through iPads in clinical settings such as the emergency department (ED).

For inpatient settings, patients can access the system through television that is placed in patient’s room. It contains a variety of entertainment options, spiritual care modules and patient education materials.

How iPET works as a patient engagement system

The most common example of iPET systems is patient portals. With the aim of increasing patient engagement, this system provides useful selections that educate patients on disease processes, diagnostics, medications, communication between patient and healthcare providers, as well as access to the portions of EHR.

This also enables patient to communicate directly to physicians, discuss any patient related health matters such as disease prognosis, next appointment, medication and current updates. Even though the studies on patient engagement systems in inpatient setting is limited, earlier studies have shown the capabilities of this system in delivering effective patient education, better patient-provider communication and improved decision making.

Latest finding revealed iPET may function as distraction therapy

Recently, a study had found that iPET is an effective system that offers sections of spiritual care content, music, movies, white noise, and relaxation techniques. The system fits in two kinds of distractions, which are active and passive distractions.

In active distractions, patient participation is required, such as when playing games. This is contrary to passive distractions that require less participation such as listening to music or watching videos.

With entertainment provided, researchers found that iPET usage was quite helpful as a distraction therapy, particularly for children and psychiatric patients as well as for long period-waiting patients in the ED.

Some nurses in the study noted the effectiveness of this technology as distraction therapy. One nurse said, “My patients seem happier and, frankly, I am answering fewer call lights since using the system.”

Similarly, several nurses revealed that patients seemed to be on their call lights less while waiting in the ED. “The system is very useful for my hold patients in the ED,” said one nurse whose comments were reflected in several other nurses’ responses.

Positive feedback also comes from medical-surgical unit nurses, as they claim that turning on the entertainment portions of the iPET system helped “bedridden patients pass the time.” So, rather than increasing patient engagement through communication and education, the iPET system also diverts patients’ anxiety and deviates their attention from their disease.

Training for nurses

While care providers acknowledged the importance of this system in acute care settings, more time should be given to nurses to polish their technology competency. Hospitals should empower nurses to educate patients fully on the system.

Specific training on how nurses can optimally use the technology for patient interaction, as well as the distraction features, should be stressed to allow them to explore the whole functionalities of the system. For new nurses, there should be an introduction to this system during their first week of orientation so that they are aware that the iPET is part of their toolkit to use with patients.

As for nurses, the usage of this technology should be an integral part of their nursing practices. They are the forefront of every quality improvement measure and always the first care provider to introduce these systems to their patients. If they are not properly trained in utilising them, it is possible that the system will never be used to its full potential. MIMS

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