As the buzz builds around the NHS expo this week, our minds have turned to the importance of innovation and how technology can help the NHS achieve more. The NHS expo is fantastic opportunity for all involved. Whether big or small, companies up and down the country have the chance to come together to demonstrate how they can change the NHS for the better.
Following the backing of the Tax Payers’ Alliance report, Automate the State, by Matt Hancock, Health Secretary, it is evident that automation will be a key talking point for the NHS at events such as this. Matt Hancock, who rightfully reacts to the power of technology with childlike glee, has championed automation and technology for good reason, with the Tax Payers’ Alliance report estimating the NHS could save £12.5 billion. But, while these figures are enticing, it perhaps misses the point of the real value of automation — helping the NHS and its workers achieve more, so ultimately, patients can receive better outcomes.
In order to get to grips with how automation is helping the NHS, let’s take a look at the areas in which automation can help and the key points we’ll be presenting on at the expo. (For those attending, swing by stand 271 to hear more)
Automating HR in the NHS
It happens almost monthly. Another story about the challenges of the NHS around staffing, from this week’s NHS shortages means cancer treatment is slowed down to the report earlier in the year that staffing shortfall will be 250,000 by 2030. The pressure on staffing now means that the NHS is racing against the clock to secure staff today and into the future. Unless something changes at all ends of the staffing process — the outlook looks decidedly grim.
Whilst we certainly aren’t going to say that automation is the panacea to every facet of the staffing issue, it certainly will help the NHS take a step in the right direction. Relieving some of the pressure on the 93% of trust chairs and chief executives that are reporting a huge recruitment struggle. So, how does automation help in HR?
In essence, automation can help refocus HR staffs’ time by removing the repetitive tasks they perform, or at least giving a helping hand. If we take onboarding and offboarding as an example, intelligent automation can work within existing systems and applications to activate needed onboarding materials and update all the required systems for registration.
Another example could be application checks: when a nurse or doctor is onboarded, all the relevant qualifications need to be checked across different platforms. By adding automation into the loop, digital workers can handle the majority of the process and the outliers can be passed by ‘humans in the loop’ to check.
This is only scratching the surface of the possibilities but one thing is for sure, automation gives time back to staff to achieve more. Which in turn, supports hospitals through faster and more efficient HR processing — lifting at least some of the weight of the NHS recruitment problems.
Facilitating systems interoperability
Applications and systems can be unique for different departments. From the patient record system, to the niche radiographer application, some NHS customers have stated they’ve come across as many as 350. The usual solution for passing information between these systems is people, but with 80% of all serious medical errors coming in transitions — this manual entry and rekeying evidentially doesn’t work effectively.
The other option is often an attempt to integrate systems — but with so many systems spread across hospitals up and down the country, integration of systems can sometimes be unfeasible. Thankfully, automation in the form of digital workers can help as they use the same interfaces that people do. Meaning that data can be rekeyed across systems without full integration, resulting in removal of transfer error, cutting down patient waiting times and freeing staff. So, your systems actually interact with each other and you have one version of the truth available in an instant.
Did Not Attend
According to NHS England, almost eight million hospital appointments were missed, or ‘Did Not Attend’ (DNA), in 2017/2018 — with the staggering cost of £1 billion. What makes it even more shocking is this number excludes appointments cancelled in advance, so this is simply people not turning up for whatever reason. One of our clients, East Suffolk and North Essex Foundation Trust, saw the potential value which could be saved here by deploying automation into the process.
Rather than elaborating on the full detail of the process which can be found in our case study here, we’ll look at the benefits that have been realized by having virtual workers notify, update and automate this process. In just 8 weeks, intelligent automation prevented 1,356 appointments being missed — with 301 in the first week. The impact from this reduction has resulted in lower waiting times, more productive clinics and the trust being on track to save £2.1 million in the first year. What’s more, this hasn’t been ESNEFT’s only success. Their other automated process of GP referrals, which can be read about in full here, released over 500 hours of GP time back in less than three months. With results like this, imagine the potential of automation using digital workers across the NHS.
Maximizing patient outcomes
As stated earlier, helping the NHS achieve more to result in maximizing patient outcomes is the overarching objective of any NHS service. However, achieving better patient outcomes can be challenging when you come under strain. The reality is that the pressure on the NHS isn’t probably going to let up in the foreseeable future, which makes rolling out technologies, such as automation and AI, even more important. At spaces like the NHS expo, we look forward to demonstrating how technology can help ease strain on staff stretched to the brink and release them to do more to achieve better patient outcomes.