The nurse’s journey: how smart data capture will revolutionise hospital processes  

The nurse’s journey: how smart data capture will revolutionise hospital processes  

Luciane Ragni, Industry Solutions Manager Healthcare at Scandit, talks to us about the current state of nursing in the UK and how technology can help alleviate some of the pressures staff are facing.  

With one in 10 nurse posts in England left unfilled, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has stated that the current shortage of staff is posing a risk to patient care and safety. Nurses are feeling mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted and are even striking for the first time in the RCN’s 106-year history. 

The situation has reached a breaking point. The healthcare industry needs to take action to improve nurses’ day-to-day working processes and reduce the amount of those leaving the profession early due to burnout and stress. Healthcare organisations are competing to attract talent and reassure their nursing staff they will be supported by processes, systems and technology to keep them productive and engaged. 


One might not immediately associate nurses’ workloads with barcode scanning and other data capture tasks, but in fact, numerous critical elements of their work require it. Whether verifying patient data or medication, tracking medical supplies or ensuring test samples are correctly labelled and routed, efficient data capture is key. For healthcare organisations looking to attract and retain staff, improving the data capture equipment and systems that nurses use daily is a key challenge.  

Driving day-to-day delight 

Resource-strapped healthcare organisations are now required to do even more, even faster. By introducing smart data capture solutions on smartphones, multiple daily processes can be brought together on a single, multi-use device that can easily slip into a nurse’s pocket to use at a moment’s notice. Staff will already be familiar with smart devices from personal use, so the experience is intuitive from the start. Onboarding can be made even faster and easier with Augmented Reality (AR) based information overlays, used to speed up training, reduce stress and improve productivity. 

Dedicated scanning devices in hospitals are often part of Workstations on Wheels (WoWs), which nurses have to manoeuvre throughout their day, carting them around between or within patients’ rooms. They require different battery packs and are often bulky and slow, making the simplest of tasks tedious and time-consuming. 

Smart devices eliminate the need for sourcing the right equipment and wheeling it from patient to patient. Clinical mobility and super-accurate scanning gives nurses instant availability of critical information right on the screen; scanning multiple barcodes at once and AR-powered picking also helps to quickly find the right medication for patients. 

Eliminating medication administration risks 

One of the key touchpoints on a nurse’s journey is medication administration. However, with increased pressure to increase productivity, despite chronic staffing shortages, the risk of error can rise significantly.  

For instance, it’s estimated that every year in England 237 million medication errors occur at some point in the medication process, with adverse drug events (ADEs) costing the NHS over £98 million a year. 

Barcode medication administration (BCMA) processes require easy-to-use, error-free scanning technology. Medication packaging comes in many forms which can pose challenges for nurses. For instance, curved, highly reflective surfaces and minuscule barcodes can be tricky, with low levels of light in darkened patient rooms making simple scanning tasks a nightmare. A recent study suggested that BCMA is limited by technological constraints, including low laptop battery, system lags, freezing and malfunctioning or unavailable barcode scanners.   

A smart device powered with a reliable and superfast scanner gives clinicians peace of mind to overcome these challenges, assisting nurses in confirming the ‘five rights’:  

  1. Right patient 
  1. Right medication 
  1. Right dose 
  1. Right route 
  1. Right time.  

When limited by technology, processes are slowed and inevitable deviations from established protocols occur.  

Inventory management in healthcare  

Accurately storing and managing medications is incredibly important for eliminating extra costs, meeting regulatory requirements, and of course, keeping patients safe. But when it comes to keeping track of medications, many challenges can arise as pharmacy inventory management in most hospitals is largely a manual process today.  

Drugs placed into inventory should regularly be reviewed for expiration dates to ensure they are not outdated. Scandit’s multiple barcode scanning enables pharmacists to capture an entire shelf in a single scan, while AR overlays highlight expiration dates and other useful information on the device screen at a glance. 

AR overlays, which are intuitive and easy to use, put important medication information, such as expiration dates, patient-specific dosage instructions, allergy information and other critical updates at the user’s fingertips, helping to reduce errors and increase patient safety.  

By effectively tracking expiration dates, healthcare providers ensure that drugs are dispensed in the right order, with the earliest to expire being used first, reducing costly wastage.  

Enhanced care 

By speeding up workflows securely and accurately, smart data capture solutions offer nurses more time to do what they do best: caring for their patients. Spending more time with patients has been shown to improve job satisfaction and retention, as well as patient safety and the overall patient experience. 

As well as time-saving benefits, improved scanning capabilities allow nurses to complete non-intrusive scanning. Patient wristbands are a critical touchpoint and part of nearly every scanning sequence. However, their curved, shiny surfaces can be difficult to scan with dedicated devices, especially in dimmed light rooms, meaning that nurses must move the patient’s wrist, scanning multiple times before getting it right and ultimately disturbing them. This can cause distress – which can be easily avoided with smart data capture offerings. 

Future-ready healthcare 

The switch to scanning-enabled mobile devices is also a win for hospital budgets, with a significantly lower total cost of ownership (TCO) than dedicated scanners. Thus, the combination of smart data capture and smart devices provides a flexible, future-ready solution that scales with growing healthcare needs and evolves as new technologies or use cases arise. Ensuring compliance and Business Continuity reduces errors and maintains an accurate view of medication and patient care. 

Looking to the future, this technology can support end-to-end supply chain visibility of medication, improve the detection and removal of unsafe drugs and promote pharmaceutical traceability. Integration with automated dispensing devices and pharmacy management systems can allow for automatic tracking and inventory count, and with constant research and development underway for both software and hardware, organisations are not limited to a single mobile solution manufacturer or software vendor. 

Nobody spends years of education and training hoping to become bogged down by slow, manual processes or cumbersome, outdated equipment. Incorporating smart devices and high-performance data capture tools across every step of the nurse’s daily journey can allow for improved hospital workflows, boosted staff retention and improved patient care. By providing nursing staff with the best technology, healthcare organisations can demonstrate to prospective and current employees just how much they value their time and expertise. 

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