RNAO issues guidelines for digital health

  • May 13, 2024
  • Steve Rogerson

The Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) has issued guidelines for teams working in digital health environments.

At a time when digital environments are changing care delivery, the RNAO has release best practice guidelines (BPGs) to support nurses and interprofessional health teams in their practice. Titled Clinical Practice in a Digital Health Environment, they feature evidence-based recommendations to support care across settings and sectors to improve people’s health outcomes and equity.

“Nurses and other health providers are increasingly using digital health technologies powered by artificial intelligence and deep machine learning, in practice, and these BPGs provide a roadmap to ensure high quality and equitable care regardless of setting,” said Doris Grinspun, RNAO CEO.

The guidelines also outline the many resources available to guide the implementation of the recommendations, and evaluate their impact within organisations.

“We look forward to supporting the work of all health professionals, teams, organisations and systems as they apply these novel BPGs into clinical practice to provide safe, quality care using advanced technology, such as predictive analytics,” said Grinspun.

The BPGs outline recommendations and good practice statements related to:

  • initial and ongoing assessments of using digital health technologies in care
  • providing persons and families with education related to digital health technologies
  • being actively involved in implementing digital health technologies in clinical practice
  • ongoing education for nurses and other health providers
  • developing interdisciplinary peer champion models for education purposes
  • implementing policies to protect privacy, security and confidentiality
  • regulatory bodies embedding digital health competencies into nursing and other health provider entry-to-practice exams
  • employing early warning systems to support clinical decision-making

The BPGs interprofessional expert panel was co-chaired by the late Vanessa Burkoski, former chief nursing executive and chief of people strategy at Humber River Health, and Maureen Charlebois, chief nursing and clinical officer at Bayshore HealthCare. These guidelines are dedicated to Burkoski, who passed away in August 2023.

“These BPGs are a testament to the legacy and vision of Burkoski, who once said ‘ensuring nurses have all the tools to deliver the best quality and safest care’ was important to her,” said Grinspun. “It was her idea to develop these guidelines. Their recommendations will help nurses and other health providers feel confident while providing person-centred care alongside new and emerging technology. We honour Burkoski, her knowledge and expertise as the co-chair of these important BPGs.”

Charlebois added: “It was a privilege to co-chair the development of these BPGs with my colleague and friend Dr Burkoski. I would like to thank the esteemed expert panel for providing their time, thought leadership and passion to make these BPGs a reality. Our objective is to enhance health delivery through effectively using digital health technologies. These guidelines represent our joint endeavour to ensure that technology is seamlessly integrated into clinical practices, thereby improving both the experiences of health providers and the outcomes for patients.”

The BPGs are available for free download on RNAO’s web site at rnao.ca/bpg/guidelines/clinical-practice-digital-health-environment.

The RNAO’s BPG programme is funded by Ontario’s Ministry of Health. It was envisioned by Grinspun in 1998 and launched in 1999 to provide the best available evidence for patient care across all health sectors and settings, with more than 50 guidelines developed to date. The Best Practice Spotlight Organisation (BPSO) programme supports health service and academic institutions that have formally agreed to implement multiple RNAO BPGs over a three-year period, and evaluate their impact on patients, organisations and health system outcomes. Launched in 2003, the BPSO programme has more than 1500 BPSOs in Ontario, Canada, and internationally.

The RNAO (rnao.ca) is the professional association representing registered nurses, nurse practitioners and nursing students in Ontario. Since 1925, it has advocated for healthy public policy, promoted excellence in nursing practice, increased nurses’ contribution to shaping the health system, and influenced decisions that affect nurses and the public.