Healthcare is one of the costliest industries, and any way of cutting expenses should be taken into consideration and implemented as quickly as possible. Automating processes related to data collection, storage and processing is not only important from a financial perspective but also from an efficiency one.
The biggest incentive for automation in healthcare is the shortage of qualified medical staff against the backdrop of the growing older population in need of care. The Bureau of Labor predicts an increase in demand of nearly a quarter of a million registered nurses by 2026.
Medical staff need to monitor patients' conditions, take accurate notes, introduce these into the billing system, anticipate problems, offer the right treatments and as well as provide comfort and reassurance. Automation, such as through automated data capture (ADC), is a necessity for the healthcare industry to remain affordable and optimized. While other sectors fear job losses to technology, healthcare needs it to keep expenses at bay and reduce the pressure on existing staff, allowing them to focus on more human aspects of the job.
Better accuracy and compliance
In a hospital environment, each detail can influence a patient's life and wellbeing, and some errors can be life-threatening. The Institute of Medicine estimates that between 44,000–98,000 patients die in per year due to general preventable errors. By applying automated solutions, a healthcare unit can ensure automatic compliance with regulations such as HIPAA, thus avoiding penalties and payment delays. Developed at top level, such software also provides excellent data security and privacy of highly sensitive information like diagnosis.
Higher cost efficiency
Automation has already been shown to reduce wasted resources in the healthcare sector – communications provider TeleVox claims that their text reminders for patient appointments reduce the number of no-shows by 25–30%. ADC can help to cut waste costs further, buy reducing paper waste and providing safer data storage. Using traditional paper forms may lead to incomplete information or data in incompatible or illegible formats; after all, doctors' handwriting is not a myth.
The best thing about ADC technologies is that they scale automatically. Healthcare units will not have to worry about peak moments when they do not have enough personnel or vice versa, when the workload is low and they have to pay people just for their presence.
Connected and multi-channel processing
Data comes in various forms in a medical environment. There are patient identification data, medical history records, codes of drugs, medical imaging data, lab test results and so much more. All of these need to be carefully stored and interconnected with all the different pieces of the puzzle to describe a patient's condition.
An automated solution classifies each data entry and stores it in the most accessible way, as explained by InData Labs' experts. The software can also include an indexing module to make searching for particular data more convenient.
By using data capture technology, a healthcare provider also gets the benefit of doing this in real time, without affecting the quality of interaction between the patient and the medical staff.
Improved bedside care
Looking at the natural workflow in a medical unit, a great deal of patient data is collected right at the bedside, usually by a nurse or even a doctor through an observation sheet. Since the time for each patient is very limited, care providers need to make the most of it, both from professional and human touch perspectives.
Automated data collection solutions can offer more time to give medical advice and evaluate a patient's recovery progress by spending less time on administrative tasks. Such solutions can do it through natural language processing to take the right notes in the proper form fields. Solutions also need to be easily embedded in a clinic's existing technologies, such as smartphones or tablets, and to require minimum corrections after the fields are populated automatically.
Capturing and indexing data digitally has immediate use cases in medical treatment, but it can serve even more purposes. If there are enough relevant, clean and well-tagged data entries, after proper anonymization to protect patients' privacy, these can be used for clinical studies, to train algorithms and to study disease dynamics. The results can offer an invaluable library of knowledge about disease management and development. This can save lives and help future doctors understand the relationships between different conditions or the efficiency of treatment choices.
Possible limitations of ADC
Life in a medical unit is fast-paced, procedures need to be followed through quickly, and there is no room for error. In this battlefield, there is no time for editing mistakes and playing with technology; everything needs to function flawlessly and be streamlined.
The biggest obstacle against adopting such high-tech solutions is the implied learning curve that scares most nurses and doctors. These professionals are so used to low-tech but reliable tools that they can often be reluctant to changes, particularly as the strain on medical staff is big enough without implementing additional training courses.
However, like so many other sectors, healthcare needs to let go of their paper records and focus on digital, integrated solutions. As there is an increased need for efficiency, cost reduction and a human touch in care delivery, such solutions can become a response, providing the learning curve and adoption hurdles do not scare away potential users.