We are living much longer than previous generations, while the funding and resourcing for public sector healthcare struggles to meet these expanding demands. The UK population is a prime example of a country living longer, with certain areas such as West Somerset already having 1 in 3 over 65, and by 2046 25% of UK the population will be within this bracket. Exacerbating this issue, it is predicted that staff shortages could reach 250,000 by 2030 without urgent action. As the country, and also the globe, is affected by such demographic issues, it makes long term planning and focus towards the use of technology to solve issues paramount to the future of a functioning healthcare system.
On the 7th of January, the UK Government published the long-term plan for the NHS. An ambitious plan for improvements within the NHS, which has been described as a “blueprint to make the NHS fit for the future”, with the aim of “saving almost half a million lives” . As part of these bold plans, the Government set out key digital transformation aims and states the importance of technology to underpin the future of the NHS. The UK Government has seen the importance of driving digital technology within the NHS, joining in partnership with 13 other global nations to revolutionise the health service delivered globally.
The plan outlines a future in which technology such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) is front and centre. With the aim of eliminating waste and boosting cutting edge AI, the Government set out target aims of saving up to £700 million pounds across the NHS in office based work and “open a ‘front door’ to the health service”.
A patient outcome focus requires public healthcare providers, like the NHS, to rethink their resourcing structures in order to operate more efficiently. Especially, to digitise healthcare provisions and to match the expectations of the Government on delivery of patient outcomes. So, how could RPA & AI automation be used to address resourcing structures and help public sector providers deliver?
RPA & AI automation: Use cases for Public Sector Healthcare
The way in which RPA and AI can help Public Sector healthcare providers is vast. Organisation have the ability to free up staff time to concentrate on what matters — the patient. Instead of organisations spending their funding and time on non-patient related staffing, RPA & AI can give time back to frontline staff. Let’s take a look at two examples of transforming patient outcome:
Our customer, ESNEFT, automated 2,000 GP referrals that came into the trust on a weekly basis using RPA technology. The Trust deployed Virtual Workers to automate the GP referrals process, which was previously extremely manually intensive and took up a lot of staff time. By deploying Virtual Workers, the time taken to process referrals was reduced from 25 minutes to just 5 minutes — a clear match to the Trust’s principle that ‘Time Matters’. And, even more importantly, this released the medical secretaries’ time to perform more value added and vocational tasks. Virtual Workers now actively monitor incoming eRS referals in real-time, 24 hours a day. Across 5 clinical specialities at ESNEFT, Virtual Workers released 500 hours of time in the first 3 months, produced a saving of £220k per year, reduced spend on agency staff and improved job satisfaction. The Trust have recently announced that they have now saved one year of staff time in just 6 months. Ultimately, it has given precious time back to the Trust to concentrate on what matters — the patients.
Patient Appointment Reminders
After the success of the E-referals process, ESNEFT have gone on to deploy a new automation around patient appointment reminders. Within most Trusts, patients are offered reminders of their appointments — to try and make sure appointments are attended. At ESNEFT, every patient receives a text reminder asking them to confirm their attendance for an upcoming outpatient appointment. Virtual Workers, using a mix of advanced AI & RPA technology, receive notifications from the patient appointment reminder service, log in to the PAS and either confirm, or automatically cancel the booking.
This is set to have a positive impact on the DNA (did not attend) rate, release back appointment slots to other patients in a timely manner and save time for hard working staff within the patient contact centre.
Can AI & RPA Help Organisations Transform Patient Outcomes?
As part of the overall plans of public sector healthcare providers, AI & RPA must play a key role to concentrate on patient outcomes, such as the ‘front door’ to digital healthcare laid out in the NHS long term plan. This will help to free staff time from non-patient related work so they can work on value added or vocational tasks for the transformation of patients’ care.