Necessity is the principal force driving human inventions. History is a true testament to this fact. The telephone was created to meet the need for communication, the wheel came into being to move objects, and the necessity to see in the dark brought the invention of light bulbs.
A similar correlation is seen in the quest to leverage technology and innovation to address the healthcare sector’s key issues.
Even before the outbreak of Coronavirus, the healthcare industry was under immense pressure. The only difference is that the pandemic has made us strategize for solutions that will primarily improve operational efficiency and patient care.
Rising operational costs, pervasive complexities in supply chain and Revenue Cycle Management, claim denials, and the ever-present mandate to offer exceptional patient care are a few problems. That said, a recent study by the American College of Healthcare Executives underlines that the biggest challenge of healthcare is personnel shortage.
The need of the hour is undeniably, thus, to embrace digital technologies by adopting a holistic approach to healthcare automation.
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Impact of Automation on the Healthcare Industry
Automation in healthcare refers to using different software technologies that augment efficiency in different stages: scheduling, diagnosis, assessments, prescriptions, billing, and follow-up.
As such, hospitals can streamline their processes, lower costs and boost productivity and accuracy to deliver top-quality experiences to patients. Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Artificial Intelligence, and Machine Learning are all well-felicitous in handling administrative work and expediting clinical assessments and research to improve patient outcomes.
However, as with any digital tool, automation in healthcare industry is supremely complex. Healthcare practitioners and administrators must be thoroughly educated in how technology interfaces with the industry to effectively tap into the automation process for practical use and manage its challenges.
For that, we have highlighted the positive and negative impact of automation in healthcare.
What Are the Positives of Automation in the Healthcare Industry?
The healthcare sector is on the verge of being redefined with automation technology that will unlock efficiencies otherwise not possible with manual operations. So, let’s discuss the benefits automation in healthcare will bring to the table.
1. RPA helps Augment Human Abilities
Robotic process automation in healthcare can ensure patient assistance the same way medical staff does. Paralyzed people could experience the bliss of walking again without help from caretakers thanks to exoskeleton robots.
Moreover, an intelligent prosthesis equipped with sensors amputees to have more reactive and responsive limbs.
That said, social companions and conversational robots can help people control temperature, blood pressure, and sugar levels, as well as take pills on time. They can also analyze a person’s mood and help depressed patients feel more positive.
2. Improvement in Data Transfer and Access
Source: HHM Global
Automation in data management within healthcare facilities reduces the bottlenecks in treatment workflows when various departments need to work together on diagnoses.
When information is collected from the patient, it is instantly added to the database that every doctor, surgeon, or healthcare practitioner can access. They are instantly made aware of the medical history and other essential information to recommend the right course of treatment quickly.
3. Lower Cost
Medical errors lead the healthcare industry to suffer losses of at least $17 billion annually, and this can be avoided by automation. As such, one of the primary motivators for wanting to adopt digital technologies is lower operational costs. Automation reduces errors when it comes to patient registration and data transfer, reduces staff overtime, and offers superior efficiency.
Moreover, the lesser work time reduces stress and increases productivity, ultimately enhancing physicians’ ability to care for patients and avoid diagnostic mistakes.
4. Easy Adjustments to Changes
Source: BBC News
Machine Learning is a prominent form of automation that is recently climbing the charts in healthcare units as it allows them to adapt to changes, such as inpatient volume, effortlessly. This technology is especially beneficial in emergency rooms, helping hospitals to adjust their staffing levels as patient volumes fluctuate. It also minimizes the waiting time for ambulances.
That said, facilities, by examining historical data from various sources, can precisely estimate when they need to increase personnel for the next season of flu or other diseases.
5. Higher Patient Satisfaction
Source: Dark Daily
The amount of care and convenience a patient receives at a hospital is one aspect that influences their experience. When it comes to keeping them utterly satisfied, the ease of booking, checking in and completing appointments is completely important. The total time spent on the appointment, including the time it would take to get a consultation and the waiting period involved, also affects patient satisfaction.
One example is implementing software that allows people to log into the website or an app to book, cancel, or reschedule their appointment at their convenience.
What Are the Negatives of Automation in the Healthcare Industry?
With positives, automation in healthcare also comes with certain drawbacks that executives and staff must be aware of for effective utilization. Let’s hear the disadvantages of automation in healthcare.
1. Extensive Training
Source: Medical Device Network
Some healthcare staff might not be technically literate and require extensive training to manage the automated program effectively. As such, when the team won’t have the proper knowledge and skills of digital devices, patient information entered could be incorrect, leading to wrong diagnosis or dose.
2. Possibility of Mistakes in Diagnosis and Treatments
Source: BBC News
The correct and precise diagnosis of a specific disease depends on various data sourced and collected from millions of individuals who have experienced similar conditions.
As such, to ensure accurate comparison, the AI database has to contain substantial information about the particular condition. Because if there is a lack of essential information, AI can provide incorrect diagnoses, which could lead to wrong medication and treatment.
Besides, drug dispensing from automated systems like computerized IVs is also not foolproof. If there is any error in the system because of programming or if, in a hurry, the nurse enters the wrong dose, the automated system isn’t smart enough yet to identify the mistake and rectify it. As such, there is a huge concern for patients not getting or receiving the right drugs at the right times.
3. Lack of Empathy
Source: Trending Newsbuzz
Face-to-face interaction between a patient and a doctor is of prime importance in building trust and providing treatment. However, the use of dashboards, chatbots or other digital devices will remove the human touch, leading to a lack of empathy between both. It is one of the significant disadvantages of automation in healthcare.
This statement is specifically true when it comes to elderly or vulnerable patients; for them, relying on automated technology for care can be confusing and frustrating. They might not be able to understand their treatment plans or follow them up nicely.
4. Might Overlook Social Variables
Source: CiGen RPA | Medium
People, at times, need consideration beyond their physical condition. Social and economic factors also profoundly influence proper recommendations for specific patients. For instance, an AI system can allocate a patient to a center based on their diagnosis, not taking into account their personal preference or economic restrictions.
With that being said, the patient might withdraw from the treatment plan because of the high cost. It is the doctor who eventually decides the best suitable medication taking into consideration their social and financial condition.
5. Susceptible to Cybersecurity Risks
Source: Healthcare Outlook
Automated technology is wholly reliable on data networks, so the systems are prone to cybersecurity risks. With the arrival of offensive AI, enhanced cyber security will be needed to make Automation sustainable. According to Forrester Consulting, 88% of security decision-makers are convinced that offensive AI is a serious threat.
Like AI uses data to make systems more intelligent and accurate, cybersecurity will also use AI to become more intelligent, making them challenging to prevent.
As such, cyber attacks not just pose the risk of patient-important data getting into the wrong hands, but if data is altered or deleted, it will lead to inaccurate diagnosis or examination.
What is the Future of Automation in Healthcare?
The bottom line is future of healthcare is Automation.
Right now, whether a small facility or a large hospital, the healthcare sector is burdened, underprepared, and working with outdated software or tools that lead to inefficiency and waste of money and time.
With that being said, it is time to weave automated technology into the fabric of these structures to streamline operations, improve patient care, and increase revenue margins. Automation will reduce the workload and enable healthcare practitioners to spend more time on clinical research and prepare ahead of time.
Despite the challenges and limits of automation, this digital technology is providing extraordinary benefits to the healthcare industry. Whether patient or practitioner, it is changing lives for the better.