Community nurse teams continue to be let down by poorly implemented and maintained technology, despite high levels of digital literacy and an appetite for innovation, research has found.
A survey of 1,200 nurses, published by the Queen’s Nursing Institute (QNI) today, found that the majority of community nurses experienced basic issues with technology, including poor battery life and connectivity, heavy laptops, and badly designed work allocation tools.
The study found that in 2022, 87% of respondents reported problems with mobile connectivity, a figure that had increased from 85% in 2018. Likewise, only a third (29.5%) reported problems with device battery life in 2018, but over half (53%) said they had issues in 2022.
The report’s lead author, Dr Alison Leary, chair of healthcare and workforce modelling at Southbank University, said that the survey found ‘there has been little improvement in either provision or functionality of community nursing technology in the last four years’.
However, the report also pointed out that these issues were not due to a lack of digital literacy on the part of the community nursing workforce.
In fact, the QNI found that community nurses had a high level of digital literacy and an appetite for new technologies it concluded based on high uptake of technology in personal and professional capacities.
District nurses in particular noted that the laptops they were provided with were bulky and very difficult to use in cars, with some resorting to taking work home to complete in their own time.
Likewise, 40% of nurses said they they had problems with a lack of compatibility between different computer systems, sometimes leading to the same data needing to be input twice and adding to nurse workloads.
Scheduling platforms were especially prone to causing issues and were reported to cause over-allocation of work, unmanageable workloads, and a lack of personal autonomy.
Of the respondents working in general practice, over 20% said that scheduling platforms did not save them time while only a third had a positive view of the impact of these platforms on their workload.
Dr Leary said: ‘Scheduling platforms were not generally seen as enablers of efficiency of work. They were felt to enable ‘tick box care’, leaving insufficient time for nursing work and caused workload intensification. Nursing professionals do not like the loss of autonomy, which is a staff retention factor in a workforce that is already fragile and under increased stress.’
The report found that there is limited interaction between suppliers of the technology and the nurses who ultimately use it in their work. Nurses often said that the technology had been deployed without any consultation or impact assessment.
Dr Crystal Oldman, the QNI’s chief executive, said: ‘It is disappointing that many challenges which were reported in 2018 are still very much live issues for nurses working in the community today. There is real potential for the benefits of digital technology to be realised should these and other challenges be addressed.
‘The QNI calls upon all those involved in the design, development and deployment of new technology to work together with the nurses who use it every day, to enable them to deliver truly personalised care to the people they serve.’