Automation and artificial intelligence (AI) are really changing how we work in all industries. And while some may fear this new technology, there are many ways that AI and automation can and will drastically improve the way we work and what we can do for others. The healthcare industry is one of the sectors that really stands to benefit.
In an industry that is focused on patient care, it can be difficult to see how technology could replace the doctors, nurses and scientists at work. The reality is that technology is there to assist these professionals and help patients with access to faster and better care.
AI and Automation Are the Ultimate Medical Assistants
Automation and AI are designed to complete predictable, repetitive tasks. Medical staff worldwide spend excessive time on data entry, answering questions that didn’t warrant a whole appointment, and filling out endless forms.
MedPageToday says that “For every hour of direct patient care activity, two hours are spent [by doctors] on typing, data entry, and paperwork.” They explain further that up to half of a doctor’s time in the exam room with the patient is spent on typing, data entry, or dictation. That’s time they’re not interacting with the patient.
We also know that the medical industry has notoriously long working hours. The Atlantic says that doctors in America are expected to spend upwards of 80 hours per week in the hospital, and many doctors regularly work 28-hour shifts.
How well does the human brain operate after being awake and expected to work for 28 hours in a row? Not well… Sleep deprivation of 24 hours or more is similar to having a blood-alcohol level of 0.1%.
Suppose automation could take on many more repetitive administrative tasks that doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals have to do. In that case, the hope is that they will be able to spend more time on direct patient care and work more reasonable hours. Healthcare professionals need adequate rest to keep providing the life-saving care they do day after day.
How Exactly Will Automation and AI Advance or Improve The Healthcare Industry?
Healthcare is an industry that is always going to have a human element to it. One of the challenges facing healthcare is a massive gap between the number of healthcare staff that exist and the number needed to support the world’s population adequately.
Automation in healthcare will narrow that gap by giving practitioners more time with patients and less time doing paperwork. A recent study by McKinsey states that “AI can help remove or minimize time spent on routine, administrative tasks, which can take up to 70 percent of a healthcare practitioner’s time.”
There are already many automated systems in the healthcare industry that help increase efficiency, reduce the elements related to human error, and give staff members more time for work that requires human finesse.
3 Examples of Automation in Healthcare
Systems like automated patient check-ins and patient data management can give doctors hospital-wide access and online patient access (instead of carting around paper charts). Automated scheduling systems allow patients and healthcare professionals to have more control over their medical health.
One of the most significant assets and benefits of automation is that it may allow the healthcare system to reduce overtime. This should mean better care in the long run since staff should be more well-rested, less stressed, and be able to work at optimum levels and reduce the number of surgical or diagnostic mistakes that may happen.
Automation is also arguably better for the environment, reducing the amount of paper needed for doctors to access patient records.
Here are a few more examples of automation in healthcare that improve care quality and save time for staff.
- Continuous Glucose Monitors
Continuous Glucose Monitors (CGM) are one effective example of automation in the medical system that has been around for quite a long time. The first CGM was approved for use in the US by the FDA in 1999.
CGMs originally were only intended for Type 1 diabetics, but recent development means they’re now being used for those with Type 2 diabetes as well. CGMs have given many patients with diabetes increased quality of life.
In August 2020, the FDA approved the first automated insulin delivery system for diabetes management. The MiniMed 770G System is designed to monitor blood glucose levels and deliver basal insulin doses with little or no user input. The system is currently only aimed at children ages two – six with Type 1 diabetes. Managing diabetes in children can be extra challenging, so this automation should help improve their insulin delivery experience and relieve some stress and worry for caregivers.
- Automated Patient Reminder Systems
Medical support staff in all types of clinics spend tons of time on the phone to patients, reminding them about appointments, booking appointments, or letting them know that lab results have come back and they should contact their doctor.
Automated systems can do all of these things, leaving staff to deal with more complex projects. These systems can send notifications to patients via text, email, app notifications, or even a voice note. The patient can even choose what type of notification is best for them. The benefits of automated systems are as follows:
- frees up staff’s time
- reduces no-show appointments
- ensures no patients fall through the cracks
- Chatbots to Assist Professionals and Patients Alike
Chatbots cannot replace a doctor’s expertise or take over much of a patient’s care, but they can help doctors and other medical staff work more efficiently. Chatbots can help with many things, including the following examples of automation in healthcare:
- answer simple questions
- refer patients to further information sources
- help staff do initial triaging to prioritize patient care
- help patients book appointments
- collect follow-up post-care information from clients
Chatbots are also starting to be used in mental healthcare, with apps like Woebot. Woebot helps users work through common challenges they face with depression, anxiety and mood disorders, based on cognitive behavioural therapy techniques. The app also senses when the user might need a real human’s help and recommends that users talk to a professional.
Automation Will Improve Healthcare
The use of AI will have an impact on the healthcare workforce around the world. Some jobs will change drastically, and some will be improved considerably with the virtual assistance of chatbots and other automation applications.
If you’re curious about how an AI chatbot could be designed to converse with your medical professionals or patient population, get in touch with one of our seasoned chatbot consultants to discuss your specific use case.