Automation has become an integral part of our daily lives and is being increasingly integrated with various operations and workflow across several industries. But there is still a considerable amount of apprehension about automation when it comes to the healthcare industry.
It is projected that the U.S. nursing shortage will most likely increase and by 2025 there will be a requirement of around 260,000 registered nurses in order to provide healthcare for an aging population, mainly baby boomers and as a result of current staff going into retirement. When we add other factors to this issue like the consistent requirement of reducing costs and redundancies, the option of integrating automation within healthcare operations for patient support services and tasks that require little cognitive value seems a lot more enticing.
Let’s look at some of the benefits automation can provide for the healthcare system:
- Overall Savings on Time, Labor and Cost
Tasks and processes that require manual repetitive labor can be automated to save time as well as saving costs for worker compensation (salary).
- Improvement on Quality and Consistency
Human error and fatigue are virtually eliminated with proper integration of automation which leads to more accurate and improved patient care. When automation is used in various workflows like creating and storing medical records, order entry and decision support, it has directly corresponded to a reduction in deaths, complications and overall costs.
- Better for Population Health
Currently, healthcare systems are positioned to tackle population health which is an approach that is focused on improving the health of an entire population. As a result, it requires healthcare to be available on a massive scale which can be easily managed through automation. Automation makes health management for a large population feasible, scalable and sustainable.
- Access to Insights Given by Data
Big data has enabled healthcare professionals to predict trends, improve performance and also prevent disease outbreaks. In fact, without automation, we would not be able to collect and analyze big data.
Let’s consider the process of patient discharge and follow-ups. The traditional process generates a long trail of paperwork that needs to be checked before getting discharged. Automation can speed up this process significantly by improving efficiency and even the process of following up with patients is greatly improved. Patients that adhere to a standard care plan that is supported and monitored using automation, allow being more consistent with their actions. Additionally, monitoring patient health through automation is also much faster than traditional methods. Healthcare providers receive alerts when patients have strayed from their care plans, this allows them to send reminders and intervene when necessary. Automation also allows healthcare providers to support patients on a larger scale, whether it is made to address groups of patients with similar needs or even adjusted to look after different groups of patients.
The Negative Perceptions of Integrating Automation in Healthcare
The reluctance of integrating automation in healthcare is often related to the perception that it will affect human resources and the workforce, and undermine staffing skills and knowledge. However, this perception is false and untrue. Automating tasks that need little cognitive power allows clinicians to free up their schedule to undertake higher functioning roles that utilize their clinical expertise and knowledge.
Many people also feel that automation cannot replace the quality of care provided by healthcare professionals. This is completely true. However, integrating automation in healthcare does not directly mean the removal or elimination of human care. The aim is to integrate automation into various operations and workflows to enable healthcare delivery to become quicker, more efficient and increase the productivity of healthcare professionals. It also allows doctors and nurses to reach and provide care to more patients efficiently while eliminating the need to carry out repetitive processes like filing paperwork.
Although, currently, the benefits of automation mentioned above can be considerably expensive especially during the early development stages. Healthcare institutions can bypass this issue by choosing to outsource the integration of automation within their processes as it is a cost-effective option and still provide quality processes and output to their patients and staff. This allows them to adhere to the primary needs of decreasing costs and improving overall efficiency across almost all their processes.