Nearly half of NHS Trusts investing in AI for patient services

New data has revealed that nearly half of NHS Trusts (43%) are investing in artificial intelligence (AI), enabling patients to ‘self-help’ when accessing services.

The Trusts are harnessing technology such as virtual assistants, speech recognition technology and chat-bots to ease the pressure on healthcare workers across their organisations.

This new insight, obtained from a Freedom of Information (FoI) request issued to 45 NHS Trusts by communications company Nuance, with 30 responding, also found that the vast majority of NHS workers are still reliant in some way on pen and paper to build patient records, with 93% admitting staff still hand-write reports in their Trusts and also 93% of Trusts (28) depend on traditional word processing tools for staff to type up electronic patient records (EPRs).

Research commissioned by Nuance in 2015 into the impact of clinical documentation in NHS acute care trusts revealed that clinicians spent over 50% of their work day on clinical documentation. Technology has proven to free up vital resources to focus on patient care and reduce the burden of administration for clinicians.


Technology usage on the up

Alongside investing in technology to improve efficiencies inside the hospital, allowing staff to work flexibly can also play a key role in driving up productivity. Encouragingly, the FoI request also found that nearly half (47%) of trusts now allow staff to use mobile devices to develop patient records, saving those working in the community valuable travel time and expense.

A total of 60% of responding trusts (18) also stated that at least some staff have access to the use of speech recognition technologies to build diagnostic reports and update patient records.

Trusts could look to their colleagues in primary care who have often led in the adoption of technology to drive efficiency and improvements in patient care. One GP practice, for example, saved £15,000 in 12 months by speeding up clinical document turnaround times and boosting accuracy with medical speech to text software.

Commenting on these latest findings, Frederik Brabant, MD, Chief Medical Information Officer at Nuance, said: “Deploying technology such as AI to enable patients to self-help is an important step forward to providing the best possible care – ensuring employees can manage the more complex ailments directly with patients, while giving easy access to information for everyone.

“With staff across the NHS already under enormous pressure to deliver first-class services, typically exacerbated in the winter with disease-levels peaking, access to supporting technology to ease this pressure will be key.

“Yet many clinicians are still forced to spend half of their time documenting patient care. While it is encouraging that some departments within Trusts are using tools like speech recognition, with nearly all of them still reliant on pen and paper in some form, there is a significant opportunity to drive up this usage across the board. Our goal is to bridge the gap between clinicians and technology, freeing them to focus on their patients.”

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