The initial months of the COVID-19 pandemic, where we were unaware of the threats that surrounded us, were extremely challenging. The uncertainty of the disease and the lack of information together made an appalling combination that the healthcare professionals had to deal with. The peak of the pandemic was like a nightmare, we did not have enough manpower, information, PPE kits, essential equipment, and other resources to treat the patients and look after them.
At this point in time, it was crucial for us to come up with innovative and creative solutions to treat patients given the complexities of the pandemic. In those tough times, telenursing came as a saviour. It emerged as a critical tool in the fight against COVID-19, helping to ease the burden on healthcare providers by encouraging patients with relatively mild or moderate ailments to get care through telecommunication, from their homes.
Telenursing uses technology to provide nursing care to individuals who are geographically distant from healthcare providers. This was especially beneficial during the peak of the pandemic as the hospitals were crowded with patients who needed serious care. When the concept was introduced to us, most of my team members were excited to learn the new skill of nursing patients digitally. It was truly helpful and saved several patients from unnecessarily visiting the hospital and being exposed to the virus.
When the nurses interact with the patients digitally to figure out if they really need to visit the hospital, they ask the patients certain questions about their health. Based on the answers that the patients give, the nurses put them into red, amber, and green groups. Those who fall under the red group need instant medical attention and are asked to visit the hospital, those in the amber group could be assisted by doctors digitally and improve their health, and those in the green group needed no medical assistance and are absolutely fine. All the nurses were vigorously trained to assist the patients and take the right call while segregating them into these three groups.
It truly did help in easing the burden on healthcare providers by encouraging patients with mild or moderate symptoms to get digital care. There were more pros than cons and challenges while providing telenursing. If I had to mention some challenges, it would be the few instances where we had connectivity issues and the times when the patients could not use their digital devices well. Other than that, all our nurses are technology-driven and can use telenursing to their best advantage.
Our nurses recognize the value of tele home care as essential components of telenursing that give patients easy access to high-quality care and eliminate costs and difficulties associated with travel to healthcare facilities. They monitor the patients closely using technology and try to identify the warning signs early, to ensure good health and quality of life for the patient.
Telenursing continues to grow as a valuable method for providing nursing, especially in India. The trend is breaking the tradition for good. According to me, integrating telenursing with POC devices and healthcare mobility solutions will enable healthcare professionals to help more and more patients. Creating a telenursing portal for disease conditions like pre and post-transplant, chronic disease detection and management, long duration of tubed and drains and other rehabilitative services can also be extremely beneficial. Telenursing is cost-effective and time-saving. The COVID-19 pandemic has unfolded this opportunity to us and we should make the best out of it. It has expanded at lightning speed and will continue to grow. The time is not far when telenursing will become a norm and will also be included in the regular curriculum for good.
By Haritha Vijayan
Chief Nursing Officer