AI deployments on the rise as NHS invests in technology to deliver improved patient experience

More trusts are harnessing innovations such as speech recognition to streamline clinical documentation, according to Nuance report

  • New data taken from a Freedom of Information request issued by Nuance Communications to 40 NHS trusts across the UK indicates there is still progress to be made if the NHS is to realise its 2020 ‘paperless’ ambition and effectively use technologies
  • Three quarters of NHS trusts are still reliant on pen and paper to complete clinical documentation. Although high, this figure is down from 93% in 2017
  • One in four trusts are currently implementing some form of speech recognition to reduce the burden of clinical documentation on healthcare staff
  • The cost of secretarial support to complete clinical documentation is still high, with one trust spending £140,000 last year on agency secretarial support for patient records.
  • Only one in five trusts reported they had deployed artificial intelligence
  • Despite this, double that figure (38%) are considering it, with a further 8% planning on deployments in the next 12 months

A Nuance report reveals that more and more NHS trusts are utilising the benefits of AI to enhance services

One in five NHS trusts have deployed artificial intelligence (AI) technology to improve patient services, with double that figure currently considering it, and nearly one in 10 planning deployments in the next 12 months, according to new figures.

Data was obtained by a Freedom of Information request from Nuance Communications issued to 40 NHS trusts, with 26 responding.

The request quizzed trusts around their use of technology to improve patient care, as well as supporting the development of clinical records.

A lack of electronic patient record deployments and inefficient documentation processes are currently putting even more pressure on an already-stretched organisation, with many clinicians forced to spend around half their time creating and updating patient records – rather than treating patients

That two thirds of trusts have, or will soon roll out, AI, or are considering doing so; will be welcome news to the Department of Health and Social Care.

Just last year, it launched its tech ‘vision’ for healthcare, calling on trusts to ‘use more data-driven technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) to help diagnose diseases or conditions and to gain better insights into treatments and preventions that could benefit all of society’.

Alongside this movement, one in four (27%) trusts are currently implementing some form of speech recognition to aid the development of clinical documentation, enabling clinicians to spend more time treating patients and less time doing administration.

And hospitals are increasingly harnessing technology such as speech recognition, digital dictation , and typing automation systems to ease the pressure placed on healthcare workers, improve patient care, and reduce overhead costs.

But, while these developments are encouraging; there is still more work to be done.

The request found that nearly three in four (73%) trusts still rely on pen and paper to document clinical patient records.

This figure is down from 93% in 2017 – demonstrating progress – but also clearly highlighting the journey ahead.

“The current reliance on handwriting to complete patient records suggests we are still a way from the NHS’s 2020 paperless pledge,” said Dr Simon Wallace, chief clinical officer at Nuance Communications.

The report revealed that three quarters of NHS trusts are still reliant on pen and paper to complete clinical documentation

“A lack of electronic patient record deployments and inefficient documentation processes are currently putting even more pressure on an already-stretched organisation, with many clinicians forced to spend around half their time creating and updating patient records – rather than treating patients.”

Investing in technology like speech recognition will enable NHS trusts to improve patient care and tackle staff burnout, he added.

It should also help trusts to avoid outsourcing clinical documentation or hiring additional secretarial support at an additional cost.

Progress is being made and the further deployment of AI-powered technologies – such as speech recognition – will result in more alleviation of pressure on staff, reducing clinician burnout and cutting costs

The outlay associated with both services were still significant for some respondents – with one trust reporting a spend of around £140,000 on agency secretarial support to help compile outstanding patient records last year.

However, some hospitals are already seeing the benefits associated with utilising these technologies.

One example is Homerton University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, which has significantly reduced turnaround time on clinical letters to patients following consultations – from 17 days to two – and has saved more than £150,000 a year in outsourced transcription costs after deploying Nuance’s Dragon Medical One speech solution.

“Progress is being made and the further deployment of AI-powered technologies – such as speech recognition – will result in more alleviation of pressure on staff, reducing clinician burnout and cutting costs,” Wallace said.

“Above all, investing in such technology should enable healthcare professionals to spend less time on administration and more time focusing on their true job – caring for patients.”

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