How does digitization affect work in hospitals?

More technology, better work? Consequences of digitization in the hospital

Digitization affects almost all professional fields and will also significantly change work in hospitals in the future. In a current study by the Hans Böckler Foundation, scientists examined how widespread the use of modern devices such as PCs, smartphones and tablets among nursing and medical workers in German clinics is and what effects digital technology has on work processes, tasks and on the workload of employees.

Work in German hospitals is already significantly influenced by digitization, according to the announcement by the Institute for Work and Technology (IAT / Westfälische Hochschule) about the current study results. The social and nursing scientists around Michaela Evans, Professor Dr. For the study commissioned by the Hans Böckler Foundation, Josef Hilbert and Christoph Bräougam from the IAT examined the use of digital media in everyday clinical practice. The foundation published the results of the study in a separate article.

Insight into everyday digitalization

A Germany-wide online survey asked 648 hospital employees, 79 percent of whom worked in nursing, six percent as doctors and the rest in assistant professions, in the therapeutic area or in administration and technology. In addition, interview-based company research was carried out in two hospitals. "Based on the qualitative data, the study thus enables an extraordinarily detailed and empirically well-founded insight into the everyday digitalization of German hospitals," said the IAT.

Widespread use of digital technologies

According to the researchers, the result of the survey was quite surprising. Digitalization "plays a significantly larger role in the daily work routine of employees than previously thought." Thus, more than 70 percent of employees would regularly use digital technology "in the areas of communication, logistics, management and personnel, patient care, information and qualification". The researchers report that digital media are used particularly frequently to research specialist information, material requirements, diagnoses and to manage patient data.

Work processes in transition

The IAT nursing scientist Christoph Bräbüram comes to the conclusion that using digital technology has long been part of everyday work for employees. "Almost 90 percent of our respondents stated that they are open to new technologies," the expert continued. The assumption that nurses are skeptical about new technologies has not been confirmed. All in all, the complex of tasks and work processes in hospitals are changing due to digitization. This was also shown by the fact that 37 percent of those surveyed stated that task-related information was only communicated digitally in their work area.

Additional burden instead of relief?

Digital media are not only integrated into everyday working life, they also have a significant influence on its design. 42 percent of those surveyed said that the number of work situations in which the computer was the next step in the work process had increased. “Even more and more often, 26 percent can no longer plan the next step independently,” the scientists report. The work instructions were received by 57 percent of the subjects via email or SMS. So far, however, the new technologies have apparently not brought any noticeable relief to employees. Rather, three quarters of the respondents stated that "the range of tasks at the workplace has increased and that often several tasks have to be done in parallel."

So far, the use of digital technology has been rather diffuse

According to the IAT, the use of smartphones and tablets often leads to unwanted disruptions and work breaks from the employees' perspective. Here, the actually intended positive effects in practice have so far only been recognized to a limited extent. The head of the IAT research focus "Work and Change", Michaela Evans, emphasizes that the concrete benefits of digital technologies for saving time, more effectiveness and qualitative improvements in patient care for employees currently remain vague in practice. "So far it is unclear how digital technology can contribute to relieving and upgrading work," the expert concluded. (fp)

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