The coronavirus crisis has seen a dramatic resurgence. What a valuable contribution nurses make, and what unique challenges people in this field have to grapple with every day. I know the situation firsthand: I was born in the UK and was a nurse myself for years. I now work as a product manager at Telekom Healthcare Solutions. And in my opinion, digitalization can substantially improve the image of nursing professions.
First came nursing, then a detour into IT, and now at a tech company – my career path is rather unusual. How did it happen? In 1989 I earned my degree in health care and nursing in Bristol. After college I studied German and Italian, then I completed a management trainee program at the National Health Service and went on to work as a project manager at Caspe Research in London. Because of my husband’s job, we moved abroad frequently over the years, before settling in Germany in 2003. I worked here as a nurse in an intensive care unit. It felt like landing on Mars.
Why? It is standard practice in the UK for nurses to perform tasks that only doctors are allowed to perform in Germany. Qualified nursing staff with the right training can, for example, intubate and extubate or treat wounds in the emergency room. Nursing is highly regarded in the UK as a separate discipline with specialized knowledge, and is supported as an independent profession by the Nursing and Midwifery Council. I worked at an ICU in Germany for three and a half years, and I greatly value the experience I gathered there.
Then, in 2007, I received a job offer from a provider of hospital information systems: Krankenhausinformationssystemen or KIS for short. I accepted it out of curiosity. After that, I worked in a hospital’s IT department. And in 2019 I went to Telekom, where I now work as a product manager.
The coronavirus crisis has drawn the public’s attention to deficiencies in Germany’s health care system. Take, for example, the situation of nursing staff in hospitals. This is actually a positive aspect of the crisis: it has put our health care system to the test and revealed where the gears grind. Better working conditions, such as more employees and higher salaries, are a justified and important requirement. In my work as a product manager at Telekom Healthcare Solutions, I see that digitalization makes an important contribution. That’s because digital technologies make it possible for doctors, physiotherapists, and hospital pharmacists to see what nursing staff actually do on a daily basis at the patient’s bedside and how essential that work is for their own jobs.
KIS reveals the spectrum of health care functions performed by nursing staff. But it does far more than simply record vital signs and personal care as per nursing documentation. For example, the computer calculates the need for care by applying established nursing-science methods based on expert standards, so that nursing staff can plan and evaluate holistic nursing planning for each patient on a targeted basis, regardless of their length of stay.
Wound management, the care and treatment of wounds, is another good example of how time-consuming nursing and nursing documentation can be. The wound is extensively documented, including with photos. The process begins with a medical history and a diagnosis of the wound. Each detail may be important, including when combined with other variables such as body temperature or lab results. It’s also relevant to consider what organizations are taking care of the patient, whether painkillers or other medication are being taken and in what doses, and how the healing process is progressing in connection with the prescribed therapies. Patients with chronic wounds also receive dietary advice and are taught how to provide their own care after being discharged. Digital technology makes this kind of nursing documentation much easier.
The digital patient chart is a pivotal form of electronic nursing documentation for all clinical professions. That’s because the digital application gives a multidisciplinary team an overview of the patient’s status. The chart allows doctors and nurses to assess the patient’s status in less than 30 seconds and make decisions regarding therapeutic treatment. Because a variety of data, such as vital signs, is sent to the facility’s IT systems via the interface and thus automatically influences the patient’s chart, the nursing staff no longer has to transfer everything meticulously to the chart. The nursing staff uses the chart as digital nursing documentation to assess the patient’s status with the goal of treating the patient as effectively as possible and discharging them as soon as possible.
As a product manager, I’m responsible for electronic documentation modules such as Nursing Planning and the aforementioned Patient Chart in our hospital information system (KIS), iMedOne. But I also work closely with our users in the form of customer reference groups. The KIS is the digital heart of the hospital. Each process, from medical records to billing, is represented in the system. As a product manager, I have my finger on the pulse of the user. I know their requirements and prioritize these in our planning. Along the way, I benefit from the practical experience I’ve gained in English and German hospitals. I know the concerns and troubles. And that’s why I know how important it is to communicate closely and regularly with our users. We’re quite agile in this area; we obtain feedback from users when developing new products. This results in strategic decisions for future product development.
It goes without saying that my practical experience with the nursing process is an enormous help in understanding health care, the users, their processes, and what they require in a documentation system. However, one can succeed as a project manager in the field of health care without nursing experience. After all, product managers are in constant communication with users and hence receive firsthand insights on what improvements should be made to the electronic products and solutions. That’s part of our department’s philosophy. And this communication helps every employee do their job, whether or not they ever worked in the medical sector, as a nurse or otherwise. Furthermore, there’s also the technical side of product management. We work together as a team, and everyone has their own skill set. Our company brings together people with a broad spectrum of talents. And by the way, if anyone is interested in a meaningful job with lots of variety that promotes digitalization in health care, we’re looking for reinforcements!