Digital automation in the healthcare sector
Perhaps more than ever before, organisations in the healthcare sector are having to deal with challenges in a number of different areas. A combination of an increasing and ageing population, the size and complexity of the industry, legacy IT systems, budget cuts and pandemic-related pressures are all taking their toll. All are contributing to patients often not getting the care they need, or the service they expect. Difficulties managing appointments, documents and inventory means that care can be disjointed between different providers. Siloed systems frequently fail to communicate with each other, exacerbating delays in completing even simple processes. And the extra burden this places on staff, both through technological frustrations and patient dissatisfaction is prompting more staff to leave the industry, adding to an already chronic skills shortage. Technological issues are contributing to many of these problems – but can also play a leading role in the solution.
What is causing these challenges?
There is a huge amount of data involved in modern healthcare, and this data needs to be accessed by different care providers and organisations, whether they’re hospitals, GP surgeries, Trusts or Integrated Care Systems. However, in order for patient care to be coordinated across all these bodies, they need to work together. But disjointed systems and groups stand in the way. This means that processes like facilities departments in hospitals managing requests to fix equipment, or GP surgeries getting IT support, take much longer than they need to. These impact patient care, and ultimately can cost lives. One answer could be to bring multiple legacy systems together, but budget constraints have historically made that impractical. Attempts to combine the functions of multiple departments into one system have generally resulted in every department having to compromise and work in a way that doesn’t suit them. These overarching systems were therefore poorly used, and the overall effectiveness of each department was reduced. A single, customised platform can be practical, however, with the help of digital automation that works with doctors, staff and patients alike to iron out these inefficiencies and speed up delivery.
Introducing Enterprise Service Management (ESM) for healthcare
Digital automation (as opposed to digital transformation) involves applying specific software to help streamline core processes, so that the expectations and needs of customers – or in this case, patients – can be delivered on. In particular, Enterprise Service Management can combine processes both human and automated, so that they are as smooth and coordinated as possible. As an example of where ESM can be applied in a healthcare context, consider the scenario of a patient making an appointment. The patient needs to contact the organisation in question, provide the details of the issue involved, and then staff have to triage that appointment and find a suitable time for the appointment with a clinician. Automation can deal with that information itself, making the act of arranging appointments much quicker, and saving staff time to focus on other tasks that require human skills. As another example, in instances where equipment is discovered to be faulty, without digital automation the clinician would be required to manually report this through a service desk – taking valuable time away from patients. If ESM was applied in this instance, the clinician could quickly and efficiently report any issues by scanning a QR code on the equipment using their mobile phone.
Benefits of ESM for healthcare
The above is just one small example of the potential within ESM to transform healthcare provision from a technological perspective. Other benefits of deploying ESM can include:
- Improving productivity and efficiency: using automation to take the friction and time-consuming repetition out of employee processes can boost productivity, reduce staff stress levels, and contribute to better job satisfaction and retention
- Syncing people and resources: by making it easier for both staff and patients to access information and support, caregivers can improve their understanding about the people they serve (such as ageing populations), and deploy services more effectively and transparently
- Improve quality of care: without having so much time taken up by automatable tasks, employees can focus on better service, faster appointments and access to relevant and updated patient information
- Drive cost efficiency: replacing multiple legacy systems can yield significant cost savings, while there are also cost efficiencies to be found in freeing up human resource and getting more productivity from the same staffing investment
Prime use cases for digital automation
While different types of healthcare body will naturally have different needs and priorities, there are several common areas where most can apply ESM:
- IT and clinical equipment management: full ITIL based management of IT and clinical infrastructure, with request management available to all users
- Inter-unit referrals: complete tracking of requests and exchanges between units to ensure referrals are supported across hospitals and units within the ICS
- Finance and business services: easy management and distribution of purchase requests and allocation of resources
- Staff welfare: enabling crisis teams to explore and quickly respond to potential incidents, which focused support wherever needed
- Estate and facilities management: management and timely replacement or repair of assets and recruitment so the quality of the facility is maintained
- Ward “Did It” trackers: maintain and record checklists of regular actions
- Inventory and maintenance management: monitoring of stock levels and condition, ensuring replacements arrive at the right time and scheduled maintenance takes place
ESM is the best way to realise all the potential for digital automation to transform healthcare. Applied correctly, it can ease budgetary pressures, help maintain high standards of care, and reduce the strain on hard-working staff. Understanding how and where to deploy it can be tricky, but this is where an expert solution partner can advise. SCC’s expertise and solutions in digital automation are ideal for helping healthcare bodies like yours deploy ESM. Take a closer look at what we can do for your organisation here.
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