A recent Forbes article, explained that too much of the narrative around Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Healthcare concentrates on future research, robot assisted surgery, and development, rather than the real benefits that AI could, and is, delivering for Healthcare organisations today.
In the UK, AI technology is expected to save the NHS £12.5 billion per year. To put it in to context, that’s 10% of their annual budget saved each and every year.
One NHS Trust has seen incredible results from two parts of their automation programme. Having started with automating a process in the back office to prove return on investment and ensure a solid deployment of the platform, ESNEFT then set about to align their automation strategy to the Paper Switch Off Programme. This programme directed that all GP referrals must be processed via the Electronic Referral Service (eRS), to move away from paper based activities.
The manual process to refer a patient to a specialist consultant within a Trust previously consisted of a medical secretary manually downloading up to 15 different pieces of information on blood tests and other test results, then manually collating and scanning these in to a single document to be uploaded in to the Kainos Evolve administration system. The time taken to perform this laborious process was considerable, at about 20 minutes per referral. The Trust received around 2000 referrals per week.
By deploying a digital workforce, based on AI powered Intelligent Automation, ESNEFT were able to fully automate the GP referral process. Digital workers monitor incoming eRS referrals 24/7, and the time taken to process the referral has been cut from 20 minutes to just 5 minutes. In the first 3 months of the project, the Trust saved 500+ hours of medical secretaries’ time. Medical secretaries are now able to spend more time actually providing patient care rather than on administrative tasks. The automated process is expected to save the Trust £200,000 per year.
More recently, ESNEFT have expanded their automation programme to address the issue of no-shows and therefore wasted outpatient appointments. All outpatients are sent a text which allows them to cancel their appointment should they no longer be able to attend. Digital workers can now search for the patient and appointment and cancel appointments in the patient records system, just as a human would. Free appointments can then be allocated to the next person on the list. In the first week of the process being live, 301 unwanted appointments were reallocated to other patients and prevented wasting more than £48,000. Going on early results, the Trust will save £2.1 million in just one year, which equates to a huge 15,652 appointments being given back to patients. Ultimately the Trust will reduce waiting times, see more patients and allow clinics to operate more efficiently.
With just two of the wide range of examples of AI transforming the Healthcare industry today outlined here, the potential for the Healthcare industry is clear. The industry shouldn’t see this as a future or sci-fi sort of solution which will be applied in 10+ years’ time. With challenges such as, rising costs and decreasing budgets, aging populations and growing demand for services, all putting strain on the Healthcare industry, the time to start your automation journey is now.