Nursing care is all about information. It encompasses recording and interpreting data about patients, sending this data to other specialists, diagnosing and developing care plans, finding and analyzing information, scheduling, making reports, and so on. That is not surprising that technologies can make nursing practice noticeably easier and more efficient, but technologies with human reasoning are even more helpful, which is why nurses need artificial intelligence (AI) applications.
How is Artificial Intelligence Useful in Nursing?
First of all, the term artificial intelligence does not only refer to robots with super-intelligent minds that can surpass humans, as Hollywood movies show. AI can be defined as any software or a machine that can perform tasks “that people believe involve thinking” (Fitzpatrick and Wallace 22). Although the term itself was firstly used in 1956, the majority of breakthroughs in nursing practice happened at the beginning of the twenty-first century (Fitzpatrick and Wallace 22). Currently, probably the most useful applications are expert systems or so-called decision-making tools and various scheduling applications (Fitzpatrick and Wallace 23).
A Decision-Making Tool
Expert systems can support nurses in a decision-making process, for instance, with assessment, diagnosis, or care planning. As a prime example, Agah tells about intelligent personal health records (PNR) (397). These machines know several standardized nursing languages (in which nursing knowledge is organized), all NANDA (the North American Nursing Diagnosis Association International) diagnoses, and approximately ten possible interventions suitable for each of those diagnoses (Agah 400). So, based on a particular health issue, it can establish a nursing diagnosis and even propose several interventions with care activities.
A Scheduling System
Another example of an AI application in nursing practice is the one Jennifer Thew tells about; according to her article, there is software that can create an optimal nursing schedule using certain mathematical algorithms (par. 6). Without this application, managers need to gather at the end of a shift and decide how many nurses are necessary for the next shift based on patient acuity.
Why is AI Development so Significant?
The answer to this question is obvious – artificial intelligence can make machines do some part of nurses’ work and save time for nurses to do something else. Let us take, for instance, a scheduling system described above. Apart from the fact that it saves time for managers since they do not need to gather at the end of a shift, it also helps to avoid over-or understaffed health care units. That, in its turn, exhausts nurses’ energy less and saves labor costs.
Expert systems are even more helpful. Since they can make decisions that usually should be made by nurses, nurses have less work to do, so they can serve more people and do it more effectively, which eventually improves patient outcomes. According to Thew’s article, when physicians use AI applications to help them with a decision-making process, patient outcomes become two times better (par. 4).
According to the American Nurses Association, data, information, and knowledge are the key elements in nursing practice (7). And while other types of software can help with the first two components, all three of them can be provided only by AI. So, artificial intelligence has a significant impact on nursing: in addition to making nurses’ work easier, it also contributes to its efficiency improving patient outcomes.
Agah, Arvin. Medical Applications of Artificial Intelligence. Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press, 2013. Print.
American Nurses Association. Nursing Informatics: Scope and Standards of Practice 2007. Web.
Fitzpatrick, Joyce J. and Meredith Wallace. Encyclopedia of Nursing Research. 2nd ed. 2006. New York, New York: Springer Publishing Company. Print.
Thew, Jennifer. Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare: A Smart Decision? 2013. Web.