High-Tech Health Care


A conference on future trends in health care technology was recently held at Rhode Island College, led by keynote speaker Diane Skiba, a national leader in health care informatics – a discipline that involves the use of innovative technology to collect and analyze health data. 

Sponsored by the School of Nursing, more than 100 nursing faculty, along with Jane Williams, dean of RIC’s School of Nursing; and Ron Pitt, vice president for academic affairs at RIC, attended the conference.

“We held the conference to highlight the importance of informatics and health care technologies to improve – indeed transform – health care in our state and the nation,” said Williams.

Skiba, a professor at the University of Colorado’s College of Nursing and director of the college’s HITEC Project, has been at the forefront of “health care informatics” since the mid-1980s and was instrumental in developing the standards for the fairly new discipline.

In her keynote, she provided a comprehensive view of current practice and future trends in health care technology. She also discussed the need to educate nurses in these emerging technologies.

“What does a nurse mean when he or she writes on a patient’s chart, ‘The patient had a good night?’” she asked. “Does that mean the patient slept through the night, the patient had less pain, the patient woke less frequently, the patient died? How do we educate nurses to use the technological resources and systems available to analyze health information and thereby better serve their patients?”

Skiba offered a glimpse into futuristic technologies, such as tiny sensors that are embedded into a patient’s body to provide detailed information on bodily functions. These sensors would track the patient’s movements, heart rate, sleep patterns, blood pressure and body temperature throughout the day. “A device, such as this,” she said, “is preferable to being placed by the family in a nursing home. With sensors, a patient is able to monitor their health from home.”

The conference ended with a panel discussion by five Rhode Island leaders in nursing from the Providence VA Medical Center, the Miriam Hospital, Home Care and Hospice New England, Women & Infants Hospital and Rhode Island Hospital. They provided their perspectives on emerging health care technologies as well as the challenges, such as getting experienced nurses who are less familiar with the new technology to adapt to changes in practice.

“Overall, the conference inspired new ideas about how technology can improve nursing education and practice and transform health care,” said Williams.

“The explosion in information collected and available to health care providers is revolutionary,” said Pitt, “and the potential cost savings associated with new, sophisticated information systems.”