Comment: Safeguarding the future of healthcare

Pat Geary of Blue Prism explores how robotic processing automation is impacting on healthcare services

Robotic processing automation is helping to improve processes and reduce pressure on staff

Robotic processing automation (RPA) has taken the healthcare industry by storm. But what does the future hold? Pat Geary, chief evangelist at Blue Prism, discusses how RPA is redefining hospital infrastructure and explores the ways in which different technologies can be utilised in order to work best alongside healthcare staff

The NHS has a complex collection of systems and processes in place to help teams manage the sheer volume of tasks they have to carry out daily.

From keeping track of patient records and aftercare and ensuring staff have the correct credentials and relevant access, to managing employee schedules; there is a lot to balance.

And, if these tasks aren’t managed efficiently at all times, the outcome can have a serious impact on people’s lives.

The NHS is also facing huge amounts of increasing pressure as ageing population figures continue to rise.

This, in addition to having to co-ordinate a myriad of administration activity, is placing even more strain on an industry already stretched.

If the healthcare industry is going to successfully boost its efficiency, and reduce the stress that is seen among healthcare professionals, it must continue to encourage the cultural shift of effectively using technology

It is good news then that the NHS has been pro-active in implementing technology, particularly robotic processing automation (RPA), to help both medical staff and operations teams manage their web of processes, boost their productivity, and ultimately give them the optimum amount of time to focus on their patient care.

But, as technology continues to be embraced across the board, what is the future for RPA in healthcare?

Pat Geary

Pushed to the limit

The ageing population is currently the highest it has ever been in human history, and it is only going to increase as the number of the general population rises and our life expectancies continue to increase.

In the UK alone, the number of people aged 65 to 84 years increased by 23.0% to 10.6 million between 2008-2018.

And, with a larger dependent population, comes more reliance — and strain — on health and social care, particularly for elderly care.

This, combined with the fact that staff numbers are depleting, and with 41,000 nursing vacancies in England alone, means the NHS is facing immense amounts of strain and pressure to maintain its high-quality service.

If the healthcare industry is going to successfully boost its efficiency, and reduce the stress that is seen among healthcare professionals, it must continue to encourage the cultural shift of effectively using technology.

In fact, according to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, the potential value of time released for NHS staff through improved productivity from automation is estimated to be £12.5billion a year.

Similarly, the social care sector could save £5.9billion annually.

This is money that can then be reinvested back into recruiting more staff, upskilling existing healthcare practitioners, and preparing for the increase in an elderly population.

Taking the robot out of the human

Technologies such as RPA are already improving the healthcare industry when it comes to inputting, organising, and analysing huge amounts of medical data and patient information.

By alleviating repetitive, time-consuming tasks, RPA not only reduces the chances of human error, but also creates opportunities for healthcare professionals to reclaim valuable time back.

Having digital workers pick up repetitive and often-mundane tasks, doctors and healthcare practitioners can get back to what they are ultimately best at - looking after people.

For the healthcare service, this is a huge opportunity for automation not to remove people from their jobs, but to free up staff to focus more on human interactions.

As our hardworking NHS staff are predicted to be stretched further than they already currently are, RPA offers hope that this may not always be the case.

A friendly hand

The reality is that the best results for an organisation can be achieved when automation is integrated into the human workflow.

Having a human and digital workforce working together in harmony allows the best to be extracted for each.

Over time the use of RPA will likely be seen in the same way we see X-rays, where instead of standing out as a futuristic and scary technology, it becomes an integral part of the healthcare system.

When it comes to the future of RPA within healthcare, the possibilities are endless.

From scheduling medical staff hours and managing their patients’ medical records, to reducing manual administration and providing one holistic technology solution; RPA has the potential to create a workplace for the healthcare industry currently unimaginable.

Technology is not the threat. Rather it is the long-overdue solution to helping an industry being stretched to its limits

Technology is not the threat. Rather it is the long-overdue solution to helping an industry being stretched to its limits.

Ultimately, we are just at the start of what is possible with RPA.

And, as deployments increase, no doubt more new and exciting uses will be found and our health service will be all the better for it.

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