How embracing technology can make life easier for the healthcare sector


Thursday, 26 September, 2019

How embracing technology can make life easier for the healthcare sector

Healthcare workers can often feel like a very small cog in the very big machine that is the healthcare system. From doctors and nurses to administration staff, there is little doubt that with an increasing ageing population in both Australia and New Zealand (ANZ), healthcare workers are expected to find ways to do more with less.

Recent research suggests that ANZ-based healthcare workers are very open to embracing new technologies in the workplace, including artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, especially if it can help to make their jobs more efficient. This is according to findings from a survey by technology provider Genesys.

The survey, which focused on employee attitudes about the implementation of advanced technologies in the workplace, found almost 70% of respondents from the healthcare sector believe technology makes them more efficient at work, and 35% responded saying AI had already made a positive impact on their job.

So how can ANZ healthcare sectors embrace new technologies to make their day-to-day jobs easier and more efficient?

Reduced administrative duties increase productivity

Healthcare workers and caregivers frequently appear on the list of most stressful professions, so it comes as no surprise that they are open to embracing tools to help them better manage or reduce their workload and increase their job efficiency.

In fact, 58% of respondents said they were willing to use AI-powered technologies, like virtual assistants or voice and chatbots, to help them manage their workload.

Advances in AI and machine learning can help make healthcare workers’ jobs easier by taking on repetitive and mundane administrative duties, allowing them to focus on more complex matters with higher value for the organisation. McKinsey Global Institute found the use of AI tools could improve nurse productivity by 30 to 50%[1] by reducing the amount of time they spend on ordinary business tasks, like face-to-face patient registration and scheduling appointments. Developments in AI increases the number of tasks carried out by virtual assistants and can significantly impact workloads for healthcare workers with little resistance from patients and without the need for extensive regulatory review.

Better options for remote care and access to training

Limited resources within the healthcare sector mean workers are early adopters of digital disruption and technologies allowing them to improve care, such as monitoring patients remotely. Technologies like wearable devices and biometric sensors allow health professionals to monitor patients remotely and collect data on key metrics such as heart rate, blood pressure and activity levels[2]. With 89% of Australians owning a smartphone[3], there’s great opportunities for the healthcare sector to embrace digital channels, like texting, to communicate with patients in a way that they already use to communicate in their day-to-day life.

Another example of how AI can be used in healthcare organisations that are willing to invest in and embrace digital transformation is by using chatbots to handle routine phone enquiries. Simple calls like appointment confirmations can be handled by chatbots who, when confronted with more complex questions, can seamlessly hand off the conversation to an employee to resolve.

Almost 60% of survey respondents said they were open to using virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality (AR) for job training and upskilling. This offers great opportunities for healthcare workers situated in remote communities where there is less access and fewer options for in-person training and skill development. Using VR and AR for training also means that human and financial resources can be reallocated to improving patient care.

Looking to the future

While workers within the healthcare sector may be open to the vast opportunities AI and machine learning can provide, full implementation may not be a reality for some time, especially in the area of patient care. There’s no doubt AI and machine learning present huge potential in an organisation’s ability to deliver better patient experiences as well as more focused healthcare applications, like assisting a diagnosis. The highly personal nature of healthcare means complete automation of patient care is highly unlikely and AI and machine learning will be relied on as support tools rather than a replacement. This is partly due to the enormous technical and regulatory requirements and partially due to patient resistance to dealing with machines entirely during a time where human touch is critical.

No matter what area of health care — service, care or administrative — the right blend of artificial and human intelligence will offer the best path forward to improve patient and staffing outcomes now and in the future.

[1] Artificial Intelligence: The next digital frontier? (2017), McKinsey Global Institute

[2] Risling, T. (2016) Educating the nurses of 2025: Technology trends of the next decade

[3] Mobile Consumer Survey (2018), Deloitte Australia

Image credit: © Popov

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