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Automation in healthcare: predictions for a more productive future

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Healthcare automation has been a prevalent topic in recent years. Within the Government’s 2017 Industrial Strategy there was a strong focus on artificial intelligence (AI), data and robotics but progress has been slow; with business and research support cited as one of the main reasons for lack of automation adoption.

But with business leaders highlighting “the enormous potential of the National Health Service as a testbed for medical and social care robotics if managed correctly”, how do we convince healthcare leaders that investing in automation technology could be the key to short- and long-term productivity gains?

In support of this aim, NHS Shared Business Services (SBS) recently issued a tender (now closed) for a £250 million intelligent automation (IA) framework for the NHS and other public sector bodies. Vendors with developed solutions were invited to apply for the framework if they could demonstrate how their solution could increase efficiency, reduce costs, and improve quality through intelligent automation.

Even with this framework, realising the value of intelligent automation will take time and will depend on an organisation’s digital maturity at the time of adoption. But there’s no doubt that intelligent automation has huge potential to simplify the increasingly bureaucratic administrative tasks within healthcare that so often slow down the delivery of care.

So, here are our three predictions for automation in healthcare…

Creating triage efficiencies

We saw a huge rise in the automation of first patient contact during the Covid-19 pandemic and that is set to continue as providers invest further in E-Triage systems having realised their benefit.

Whilst AI-driven chatbots for self-triage have been inexistence for some time, this is a sub-sector of digital health that is set to grow exponentially. Digitalising the triage process provides the opportunity to develop automated clinical and administrative workflows to identify the type of clinician a patient should see or as we’ve seen more recently, automatically redirect high-risk Covid-19 patients to remote consultations.

We’ve also seen some great, more sophisticated examples of intelligent automation through the use of natural language processing (NLP) coupled with machine learning algorithms to triage gastroenterology referral letters in secondary care.

Robotics to augment clinical capacity and capability

From surgical robots that deliver more efficient, less invasive procedures to the cutting edge semi-humanoid robotic technology like ‘Pepper’ who can support patients in recovery improve their mobility, combat loneliness and support mental health. There is increasing evidence and confidence in robotic technology for use in healthcare settings to not only improve productivity but also deliver a better quality of care, improving patient experience.  Unlike the pushback of automation and robotics by blue collar workers in other industries, robotics in healthcare can be very much about augmenting human abilities, not replacing them.

Simplifying healthcare hiring

With the industry average for hiring clinical and medical professionals standing at 128 days, there is a clear opportunity to automate some of the manual tasks currently carried out during the recruitment and onboarding process.

Interoperating with credentialling systems such as the GMC or DBS check databases are key to streamlining this process. Healthcare providers can also use intelligent technology such as optical character recognition (OCR) to turn paper into data, automating the scanning of compliance documents and set up of expiry date notifications to ensure workforce compliance.

If you’re looking for an automated system to assist with hiring, onboarding and compliance then book a demo or get in touch with us and find out how Credentially can help.

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