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The power of automation

June 30, 2023
Clinical management is no easy feat – without digital intervention it can be a clunky and complex process, and affects everyone who encounters it, from staff to patients. But the way we provide care is changing for the better, thanks to the automation of key patient workflows.

Why is automation in healthcare important?

The advancement of automation is changing the healthcare industry. It’s even led to what experts are now calling the ‘data-driven physician’ – those navigating digitisation by actively using data for diagnostics, performance, and studying emerging technologies in patient care.

This technological progression is welcomed by healthcare workers, whose professional lives are consumed by the admin and errors of manually completing tasks. In fact, a recent study found that of the admin tasks clinical staff were undertaking, almost half could be fully or mostly automated; staff were simply overcompensating for inefficient processes.

There is a certain fear that comes with these industrial advances, but automation in the healthcare industry should be viewed as a healthy development. It does not eliminate jobs, but instead enhances the roles staff play in healthcare, because it allows them to focus on the more skilled and human aspects of their job. Automating the appointment booking process, for example, allows medical secretaries to focus more on patient care, rather than carrying out the menial admin tasks that bookings bring.

And it’ll have a larger impact on the healthcare industry as a whole. It’s predicted that the capture and analysis of big data sets in real time will advance “do-it-yourself diagnostics”, which will eventually turn our healthcare system from a reactive service to a preventative one, able to gain an advantage on illness.

What happens to healthcare without automation?

As diagnostic tools improve and the types of providers expand, the need for these systems to talk to each other grows. “All of these advances require information to flow from one system to another,” says Sara Fikrat, Semble’s Head of Product.

Without this, the administrative burden may seem innocuous on the surface, but it’s detrimental to the running of a successful clinic. “The more time staff spend on admin, jumping from system to system, the less time staff have to concentrate on patient care,” says Sara. “More admin means you’re spending vast amounts of time on the less exciting parts of your job, which is bad for staff morale. Essentially, an increase in admin usually means low retention of both staff and patients.”

Errors in a GP’s workflow or failures in administrative activities – like writing letters or issuing prescriptions – has proven to be a cause of low satisfaction. In fact, the burden of admin was so great, it contributed to nearly 13% of a GP’s time.

“The more time staff spend on admin, jumping from system to system, the less time staff have to concentrate on patient care.”

Group 62139 Sara Fikrat
Head of Product

Admin plays such a key role in shaping patient experience; analysis from the English Cancer Patient Experience Survey found the co-ordination and administration of care were the strongest predictors of patient satisfaction in cancer care. An effective clinical system reduces the need for manual tasks, which in turn guarantees patient satisfaction, a good reputation and therefore customer loyalty.

Manually completing tasks also leaves clinics open to human mistakes, which can lead to patient safety concerns. Admin errors have been connected to issues such as wrong medication, incorrect storage and missing prescriptions. Reliability and trust are key to building a good clinic reputation; crucial clinical errors can jeopardise your character and have harmful consequences for your practice.

The healthcare industry is one that relies on innovation, and automation should be revered, not feared. It is key to making clinics safer, more efficient and geared towards patient care. It’s crucial for empowering the clinics of tomorrow.

Tips for reducing your admin burden

From Semble's Head of Product

Assess your workflows: Where can you see friction? What’s stopping your workflow from being smooth? Those barriers can likely be solved by digitisation – for example, swapping out paper consultation forms for electronic versions, or online booking rather than staff taking appointments manually over the phone.

Rethink your processes: Does it make sense to use many different tools to get the job done? How can you make processes more connected? If you have two different systems for accessing and sharing lab results, for example, is there a way to combine this and kill that issue upstream?

Think about the bigger picture: Look more broadly at the areas of your clinic that could benefit from automation. Take communications, for example – scheduled appointment reminders would mean a reduction in no-shows, but also improves your overall relationship with your patients.