Like it or not, the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in nursing and midwifery is “here to stay” said Saba Akbar, a researcher into how AI can help nursing assessments.
Whether it is a medication-infusion pump detecting hyperglycaemia, or a blood pressure monitor, most nurses and midwives are already using AI to help make decisions about patient care, she says.
And as the integration of AI tools into healthcare settings grows, “there is almost an ethical imperative for nurses to have a minimum basic understanding of AI”, Akbar told delegates to this year’s NSWNMA Annual Conference.
“As nurses and midwives we are the group who collect the most data from the moment we start our work with the patient. We’re doing an initial assessment at the time of admission, then we’re doing repeated, continuous assessments while the patient is in our care.”
As part of her research, Akbar has designed a program to see if AI can help nurses to assess patients. The automated program “starts with identifying patient condition, looking at all the medical records and recommending what assessments to do, but also filling out the forms for us. So, kind of making our lives easier”.
Called SNAP (smart nursing assessment program), it is currently being tested as a prototype.
Akbar, who worked as a surgical nurse and in general wards and special care units before embarking on her PhD research, said she became interested in looking at how AI and machine learning can improve nursing practice and make nurses’ lives easier.
She gave the example of a wound care app that now helps nurses with decision making. The app collects a picture of a patient’s wound and uses AI to analyse the wound size and the cells involved, and then gives a recommendation about treatment.
In aged care, an app called PainChek is being used for patients who cannot communicate with their caregivers. A caregiver can record a video of three seconds, and the app uses AI and facial recognition features to tell you if the patient is in pain.
Akbar described it as “an AI-powered early warning system” that is reducing mortality and length of stay. Another AI-powered technology used in aged care is to monitor falls and it can detect “whether [a patient has] a fall or looks like they’re dizzy, or if they have been alone for a while”.
AI is only as useful as its users, Akbar warned. “The data that we input has to be good quality, because as in all of these things, it’s always garbage in, garbage out.”
Akbar emphasised that it is imperative that nurses and midwives are not just the target users of AI in health: it is also vital they are involved in the development and implementation stages of AI applications.