A commitment to care: Can AI help save the NHS?

A new wave of AI could protect staff, save time and boost efficiency in healthcare

This year has seen our healthcare professionals put under more strain than ever before. The impact of covid-19 has seen a societal shift in responsibility towards protecting the NHS and its staff. In the short term, our communities have been forced to stay at home to save flooding the system whilst our doctors and nurses contain an unprecedented pandemic.

But how do we protect the crown jewel of our nation in the long term? The World Medical Association has long warned of a “pandemic of physician burnout”, and there is no doubt that 2020 has accelerated this state. Burnout is the outcome of overwhelming workload, long hours, and stressful activity. It is also caused by the staggering level of administrative and documentation burden clinicians face in addition to delivering patient care.

We need to act now to remedy the pain imposed by administrative requirements. We need to support our NHS staff as well as look to rehumanise the patient experience by providing solutions that support the clinician-patient relationship in these times of heightened anxiety.

The deployment of AI is one way to alleviate this building burden; to help save time, and boost productivity for healthcare professionals now and in the future.

Not letting technology limitations dictate the patient story

Clinician burnout costs all of us, often taking what’s most valuable when we’re sick or injured: the care and attention of our healthcare professionals, the human connection, eye contact, reassurance and treatment that puts us on the path to wellness.

You can never guarantee technology will make our lives easier, especially without the right training and implementation. We therefore need to ensure technology limitations do not negatively dictate the day of a healthcare professional, but rather support them in their journey to document the complete patient experience.

The latest technology in healthcare is focused on that support. For instance, by deploying AI powered, medical speech recognition across healthcare organisations clinicians can update electronic patient records more quickly and more accurately – improving the quality and completeness of the care record and speeding up healthcare data availability.

Harnessing the cloud

We speak three times faster than we type, so by deploying speech recognition, clinicians can benefit from that efficiency. We’ve also reached a point where clinicians no longer need to rely on carrying physical devices to enable speech recognition. By leveraging the cloud, clinicians can complete patient records using speech wherever they are, on the device they’re most comfortable with – for example their laptop or smartphone.

Alongside the benefits to the individual users, for the wider organisation, the power of the cloud means access to data. These insights help monitor adoption trends, ensure user efficiency and help inform decision making. Such broad efficiency gains have the potential to change the game for health providers, who will already have their focus directed towards different ways of delivering services due to the global pandemic.

These benefits are already being put to use. As an example, Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Trust deployed speech recognition during the coronavirus crisis, as part of its broader goal to support all staff members and patients. The Trust, which serves a population of around 470,000 people and employs approximately 6,000 staff, sought to free up time and enable doctors to improve safety and minimise infection risk. By deploying speech recognition, clinicians could compile patient records without having to touch keyboards or remove PPE, saving time and resources, and improving the working lives of healthcare professionals.

Having seen these benefits during physical appointments – such as embedding new ways of working and improved efficiency across devices – the Trust is also looking into how speech recognition can support virtual consultations conducted over Microsoft Teams, further increasing efficiency for staff, and improving the quality of consultations.

A commitment to a digital future

Covid-19 has undoubtedly placed one the biggest strains in the NHS we’ve seen in generations. While this has clearly been a huge challenge, it has also provided a platform for accelerating digital transformation.

The global pandemic has spurred a newfound commitment to innovation throughout healthcare. This is something that we must seek to continue post-pandemic. The strain placed on the NHS won’t subside: when other services return to normal, there will still be a backlog of patients in need, and the risk of subsequent peaks in infection rates remains.