There are many ground-breaking technologies being developed and used in the medical world today. When it comes to the way that hospitals and clinics are run, however, processes are not always as digital and efficient as they could be.
Many healthcare facilities continue to rely on a patchwork of emails, spreadsheets, paperwork, manual data entry and legacy practice management systems, which can slow things down and make information sharing difficult. In this scenario, healthcare staff are often overwhelmed with administrative tasks and clinicians have less time to spend with patients, leading to treatment backlogs and long waiting lists.
Fortunately, there are a raft of automation solutions available today that can help healthcare facilities – especially those in the more agile private sector – drive much-needed change. Advancements in cloud computing and the software-as-a-service sector have made robotic process automation (RPA), workflow automation, conversational artificial intelligence (AI) and other technologies more affordable and accessible than ever before.
Today, it is easier than many healthcare providers think to digitise and automate workloads, and prevent inefficiencies from getting in the way of timely, high-quality patient care.
Breaking down barriers to automation in healthcare
For a long time, many clinicians and patients held the view that face-to-face consultations were the only way. However, this mindset began to shift when the sector was forced to rapidly introduce video conferencing and telehealth tools during the Covid-19 health crisis.
The Deloitte Centre for Health Solutions found that 80% of UK-based healthcare organisations increased the adoption of digital technologies during the pandemic “to provide virtual support and more effective ways of engaging with patients”.
Other stumbling blocks include concerns that automation could make the experience too impersonal for patients, or that the introduction of technologies like robotic process automation in healthcare industry organisations could threaten people’s jobs.
When implemented strategically, however, automation actually has the opposite effect. Rather than reducing interactions between patients and health professionals or putting people out of a job, automation can be used to empower clinicians and other healthcare staff, by giving them more time to focus on the most important work – caring for patients.
Automation is by no means a cure-all. But it can be a key enabler of change. The Health Foundation’s Switched On report sums this up very well:
“The benefits of a new technology don’t come from how it performs in isolation, but from fitting it successfully into a live health care setting and redesigning ways of working for maximum gain.”
Cutting through the hype and complexity
Now that both clinicians and patients have had an opportunity to experience the benefits of digital technology first-hand, it is easier to dispel misconceptions. It is also time to see through the hype and understand that automation – and even AI – is not necessarily a daunting or complex project to take on.
When imagining how robotics are used in healthcare, for example, robot surgery may be the first thing that springs to mind. But robotic process automation in healthcare is actually focused on the day-to-day tasks that take up people’s time, like keying in data, typing confirmation emails, collecting information or collating reports. Robotic process automation and other solutions like document and workflow automation can connect seamlessly with the software you use every day, extending the capabilities of existing practice management systems.
The technologies that power process automation in healthcare industry settings are readily available and easy to introduce into your existing infrastructure. As a private clinic or practice looking to address national treatment backlogs or augment access to care in patient pathways that have not traditionally been a priority for the NHS, this is an opportune moment to embrace automation and make a difference.
5 Key benefits of deploying automation in healthcare
Reduce delays and waiting lists
While most organisations have clinical support systems in place, many healthcare staff still spend an inordinate amount of time scanning and uploading documents, compiling notes and patient communication, keying data on healthcare plans into spreadsheets, chasing information and so forth. This type of work is easily automated. All of these hours could be redirected to the activities that matter most: delivering timely, high-quality care to patients.
Close the skills gap
One of the key challenges in the UK healthcare sector today is the shortfall of healthcare professionals. Now that digital technology is making it possible to provide consultations remotely, private clinics looking to hire globally can harness intelligent automation to scale up their clinician recruitment programmes and accelerate onboarding without having to increase headcount in the admin or HR team.
Connect systems and data digitally
Rather than using people as the ‘integration points’ between multiple systems and data sources, you can achieve this digitally with RPA or workflow automation to reduce grunt work and prevent delays. You could, for example, build a solution that can pull test results and analyses from various sources and collate these into one consolidated, formatted report for patients after a full health check.
When processes are automated you gain data driven insights into process bottle necks giving you the ability to know where to focus to improve efficiencies and patient care.
Strengthen governance and control
When a process is digitally executed and orchestrated, it runs the right way every time. You also have immediate access to clear audit trails, so you can monitor and demonstrate compliance with organisational policies and external regulations.
Find out more
It’s clear that automation solutions can play a powerful role in alleviating pressures across the healthcare sector to improve access to care and enhance patient experiences.
Read our ebook for more detail and answers to these and other questions:
- How can I improve medical practice efficiency?
- Which processes are ripe for automation?
- What is robotic process automation in healthcare?
- What other tools can I harness to achieve my priorities?