automation in healthcare

Future proofing healthcare: How can RPA and intelligent automation help?

Our UK & Ireland Sales Director, James Ewing recently wrote an article for Open Access Government discussing how the NHS can benefit from automating their most repetitive and time consuming tasks. You can read the full article online here: Future proofing the NHS: How can automation help?

Delivering better patient care with RPA and AI

A recent leak of the Government’s draft NHS people plan revealed that England is currently short of around 40,000 nurses – a figure which is expected to rise to as much as 70,000 by 2023/24 without intervention. Ultimately, what these staff shortages mean is that across the healthcare sector in the UK, resources are being stretched as doctors and nurses are being forced to take on both specialist patient-centric tasks, and the mundane administrative tasks – meaning that the quality of patient care is likely to suffer.

This is where automation technologies, such as robotic process automation (RPA) and artificial intelligence (AI) can make a significant difference. Contrary to popular belief, automation does not pose a threat to jobs in healthcare. In fact, it enables doctors and nurses to focus on their highly-skilled purposeful work by taking on and removing the data-intense, repetitive and time-consuming administrative tasks from their to-do lists. This gives them more time to spend on delivering quality patient care.

Adapting resources

Automation can not only help by freeing up healthcare professionals’ time, but it can also be used to reallocate resources so that there is adequate cover for shifts in place when there are staff shortages. In the UK, a recent Freedom of Information request conducted by GP publication Pulse discovered that more than a million people across the UK were left without urgent on-call GP cover on some weekends during the last year. In instances such as these, RPA can be used to reallocate staff and resources so that the most under pressure practices are covered.

Such technology has been implemented in the Finnish city of Espoo. The city’s healthcare staff were frequently having to submit temporary staffing requests for home care units when there were staff shortages – taking up more of their time. The city chose to implement a digital worker, a robotic process automation bot, to carry out the temporary staffing requests.

Increasing staff satisfaction using intelligent automation

One of the biggest prejudices against implementing RPA or AI is that they are a threat to jobs and that they have been designed to replace inefficient people with artificial intelligence and robots. The reality is the best business results are achieved when people, AI, and robots are used in conjunction with one another. Artificial intelligence and robots work best when used on data-intense and highly repetitive tasks, while people work better when they can focus on the innovative and specialist tasks as well as pastoral care which is especially important in the healthcare sector. In the Finnish Espoo example, the worker’s job satisfaction increased. The robot was not perceived as a threat, but as long-awaited help in a situation where staff time was increasingly being tied up in recurring computer-based administrative tasks.