Application Scenarios for Artificial Intelligence in Nursing Care: Rapid Review

J Med Internet Res. 2021 Nov 29;23(11):e26522. doi: 10.2196/26522.


Background: Artificial intelligence (AI) holds the promise of supporting nurses' clinical decision-making in complex care situations or conducting tasks that are remote from direct patient interaction, such as documentation processes. There has been an increase in the research and development of AI applications for nursing care, but there is a persistent lack of an extensive overview covering the evidence base for promising application scenarios.

Objective: This study synthesizes literature on application scenarios for AI in nursing care settings as well as highlights adjacent aspects in the ethical, legal, and social discourse surrounding the application of AI in nursing care.

Methods: Following a rapid review design, PubMed, CINAHL, Association for Computing Machinery Digital Library, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Xplore, Digital Bibliography & Library Project, and Association for Information Systems Library, as well as the libraries of leading AI conferences, were searched in June 2020. Publications of original quantitative and qualitative research, systematic reviews, discussion papers, and essays on the ethical, legal, and social implications published in English were included. Eligible studies were analyzed on the basis of predetermined selection criteria.

Results: The titles and abstracts of 7016 publications and 704 full texts were screened, and 292 publications were included. Hospitals were the most prominent study setting, followed by independent living at home; fewer application scenarios were identified for nursing homes or home care. Most studies used machine learning algorithms, whereas expert or hybrid systems were entailed in less than every 10th publication. The application context of focusing on image and signal processing with tracking, monitoring, or the classification of activity and health followed by care coordination and communication, as well as fall detection, was the main purpose of AI applications. Few studies have reported the effects of AI applications on clinical or organizational outcomes, lacking particularly in data gathered outside laboratory conditions. In addition to technological requirements, the reporting and inclusion of certain requirements capture more overarching topics, such as data privacy, safety, and technology acceptance. Ethical, legal, and social implications reflect the discourse on technology use in health care but have mostly not been discussed in meaningful and potentially encompassing detail.

Conclusions: The results highlight the potential for the application of AI systems in different nursing care settings. Considering the lack of findings on the effectiveness and application of AI systems in real-world scenarios, future research should reflect on a more nursing care-specific perspective toward objectives, outcomes, and benefits. We identify that, crucially, an advancement in technological-societal discourse that surrounds the ethical and legal implications of AI applications in nursing care is a necessary next step. Further, we outline the need for greater participation among all of the stakeholders involved.

Keywords: artificial intelligence; expert system; hybrid system; machine learning; nursing care.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Artificial Intelligence*
  • Communication
  • Delivery of Health Care*
  • Humans
  • Qualitative Research