The global healthcare industry is facing a severe shortage of approximately 10 million healthcare workers. Factors like healthcare worker burnout, turnover, and resource constraints are contributing to this critical situation. Digitalisation, driven by intelligent automation, emerges as the beacon of hope to tackle these pressing issues and more.
In the hustle and bustle of NHS life, time is a luxury we can seldom afford. Intelligent Automation serves as that extra pair of digital hands, effortlessly managing routine tasks, thereby freeing up healthcare professionals to focus on patient care. Picture a brilliant digital assistant that not only carries out administrative tasks but also makes insightful decisions based on real-time data.
In a strategic partnership with 52 NHS organisations across 17 Integrated Care Systems, e18 Innovation is revolutionising UK healthcare. The e18 Innovation unique approach fosters collaboration at all stakeholder levels within an ICS, driving transformational change. By facilitating innovative solutions and promoting evidence-based decision-making, e18 are not just integrating technology; but are transforming patient outcomes and redefining healthcare delivery.
The NHS is the cornerstone of healthcare in the UK, responsible for serving millions of patients each year. However, administrative bottlenecks, data management challenges, and manual errors had become growing concerns. It became evident that the existing systems were struggling to cope with the volume and complexity of healthcare administration, adversely affecting both patient care and staff productivity. Given the scale and the specific requirements, it was evident that new technology was needed that could specifically be configured to manage the multiple administrative processes across the NHS
This is precisely the challenge that the Cheshire and Merseyside Integrated Care System (ICS), utilising a collaborative automation programme spearheaded by e18 Innovation. This initiative has not only optimised productivity and improved patient outcomes but has also been recognised with a shortlisting for 'Integrated Care Initiative of the Year' at the 2023 HSJ Awards.
Within the Integrated Care System (ICS) of Cheshire and Merseyside, repetitive manual processes were prevalent for both clinical and non-clinical staff. These administrative burdens were sidelining healthcare professionals from their core responsibility—patient care. There was a clear need for a transformative approach to increase operational efficiency.
In response, an Intelligent Automation (IA) programme was rolled out across the region, automating a variety of administrative tasks to free up valuable staff time and enhance patient care. Developed in partnership with e18 Innovation, the programme aimed to streamline processes across multiple key areas, including Cancer Care, Diagnostics, Referral Management, and Mental Health & Community, as well as a number of back-office areas.
The results have been overwhelmingly positive, offering:
- Improved Patient Outcomes: Automation has enabled healthcare professionals to redirect their focus towards patient-centred activities, thereby improving care and health outcomes.
- Optimised Productivity: With the automation of repetitive tasks, staff can now concentrate on strategic objectives and complex tasks that require human intuition and expertise.
- Reduced Operating Costs: Automation cuts down the time and resources required for mundane tasks, leading to financial sustainability.
- Enhanced Data Quality: By eliminating human error, automation optimises the quality of data collection and sharing across systems.
Backed by Unified Technology Funding, the project is supported thirteen NHS organisations in the ICS to build or enhance their automation capabilities. The technology employed ‘digital workers' that mimicked human activities, liberating staff to utilise their time more effectively.
The future looks promising, with plans to extend the pipeline of automation opportunities. From the ICS's standpoint, the aim is to centralise governance and further develop a Centre of Excellence for Automation.
The role of e18 Innovation has been pivotal. Louise Wall, Managing Director at e18 Innovation, applauded the level of engagement from Cheshire and Merseyside. The ICS has tapped into e18 Innovation’s extensive network, enabling the sharing of best practices and innovative solutions, which have fast-tracked their automation journey.
John Llewellyn, Chief Digital and Information Officer at NHS Cheshire and Merseyside, encapsulated the sentiment well: "The collaborative automation programme between Cheshire and Merseyside ICS and e18 Innovation stands as a testament to what is possible when innovative technology and healthcare come together in a cohesive manner. As both parties look towards building on this success, it's clear that the future of healthcare in Cheshire & Merseyside, and potentially the broader NHS, is on a trajectory towards greater efficiency and patient satisfaction.
The evidence is clear: the technology has immense potential for further application, not just as a stand-alone system but as a synergistic tool that can be integrated into larger, more complex healthcare ecosystems. Its current and prospective applications make it an active and vital contributor to advancing healthcare delivery within the NHS.
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