In all corners of society, automation and artificial intelligence (AI) are changing the way we do things. From the workplace to the home, we’re turning to automated processes to help us save time, money and improve outcomes.
Healthcare organisations are no stranger to this kind of innovation and technology. AI helps us to understand and make sense of something healthcare has large quantities of – data. The need to process this data and tailor strategy and patient care around it is becoming increasingly vital to improving outcomes while increasing efficiency against a backdrop of austerity.
With that in mind, here are 4 benefits of automation and AI in healthcare.
More time to focus on patients
A study in 2010 found that junior doctors were spending 14% of their time doing administration. That’s 14% of their time not learning about their field or interacting with patients. By automating processes and reducing things like manual data entry, clinical staff have more time to focus on interacting with patients. Collecting patient data is important, but equally – if not more so – important is listening and observing. Taking the clinician away from the screen and increasing their time focusing on their patients, improving quality of care and reducing the length of care pathways. Outside of bumping up the numbers in terms of efficiency and patient outcomes, having more time to spend on personal interaction can also improve the experience for the patient.
More accurate and informative EHRs
As we’ve already touched on, the healthcare system is becoming increasingly data-driven. Clinicians, administrative, staff and patients become increasingly reliant on Electronic Health Records (EHRs). Related to the previous section, some clinicians have bemoaned reliance on EHRs for removing the “personal touch” from medicine. That’s where automation and AI can come in – bringing together the masses of patient data that the healthcare system relies on with a lighter touch needed from those on the frontline delivering care. Using automated processes to update and maintain EHRs not only saves time, but also improves accuracy, as there’s less capacity for human error. Having access to more data with greater accuracy gives clinicians a powerful tool in delivering care, management staff better insight in delivering quality and consistency, and makes the day-to-day tasks of administrative staff easier and more efficient.
Quality and consistency
Repeatable, predictable processes lead to consistency. As mentioned, automated processes are not subject to human error, and therefore greater accuracy is to be expected over time. This leads to increased predictability of outcomes – a standardised care path means that a patient is more likely to stay on track. Having these standardised pathways and automation/AI driving them also means that if a patient should deviate away from this typical care pathway, the system can detect this and alert the appropriate staff who will be able to intervene. A study in a Texas Hospital found that automation in medical records leads to fewer deaths and complications, and a reduction in costs.
Outside of the patient interaction forum, automated tasks can improve productivity and reduce costs across the board – which of course loops back to better patient outcomes. A study found that the potential value of time released for NHS staff through increased automation is equivalent to £12.5 billion a year. Bringing in automated processes can also help ease the problems created by staff shortages – as clinical staff have more time to spend with patients.
Bringing automated processes and AI into healthcare is not about taking away the human interaction or reducing the need for staff – it’s about removing the resource-heavy admin tasks that a machine can handle. The in turn frees up clinicians to spend more time on their patients, management to focus on key strategic decisions and changes, and admin staff to concentrate on anomalies that need intervention.
At the upcoming Healthcare Partnership Network, 17th-18th March at Oulton Hall in Leeds, Darren Atkins, Chief Technology Officer at East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust, will be discussing how intelligent automation is helping them save thousands of hours and improve patient outcomes. Register your interest in attending.