Automation in the healthcare industry and the positives and negatives of its impact are often disputed. Having previously discussed whether technology will soon take over healthcare jobs, here medical industry experts discuss how automation in the healthcare industry is beneficial.

Healthcare can use automation to reap the benefits of streamlined processes

“Intense regulation means life-preserving drugs and therapies can take years to come to market. In the fast-moving world of pharma, using off-the-shelf software to track all your compliance needs is like innovating with one hand tied behind your back. Automation coupled with emerging technologies like low-code are redefining what it means to ‘diagnose’ and ‘treat’ illnesses.

Traditional approaches to interpreting patient information relies heavily on human input, and are not suited for high-volume, routine clinical testing. The most respected oncologists, medical specialists and clinicians know that only with the highest degrees of accuracy, repeatability and reproducibility will lives be saved. By implementing automation successfully, healthcare organisations can reap the benefits of streamlined processes, including a simplified product lifecycle, faster time to market, easy-to-maintain regulatory compliance, and cost savings throughout.

For example, low-code helps workers in the healthcare industry build their own applications that circumvent such problems and bring drugs to market much faster. It can also work alongside emerging technologies like robotic process automation (RPA) and artificial intelligence (AI) to streamline drug development processes and leverage data to inform lifesaving decision making.

Healthcare professionals have never had so much data at their fingertips, and much is being done to crunch this data behind the scenes to provide accurate diagnoses.”

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Stefan Prebil, pharma practice leader, EMEA at Appian


The benefits of AI in voice recognition and enterprise image management

“The use of AI within healthcare will certainly increase, and we have already seen the benefits of AI in both voice recognition and enterprise image management. This is only the start and we can expect to see shared machine learning continuing to drive AI forward. AI is set to transform health and social care with the reduction in time for professionals spent on routine work, allowing for more time to be spent on treatment and complex cases.”

Paul Timms, managing director, MCSA


Automated systems: sourcing packaging that works with the robots

“Challenges like budget cuts, the ageing population and medication shortages are placing increasing pressure on pharmacies. These can ultimately result in reduced time to spend with customers and limited storage space. Automation is one way of addressing these challenges. Automated dispensing systems, also known as pharmacy robots, are the latest technology being used to streamline the dispensing process.

Some of the benefits of using automated systems include being able to store more stock and faster, more efficient picking of prescriptions. Because the process is automated, requiring only a pharmacist to make the final check, using a pharmacy robot can reduce the number of dispensing errors, with some NHS Trusts reporting an up to a 50% reduction in dispensing errors.

One of the challenges of automated systems is sourcing packaging which fits and works with the robots. Valley Northern has introduced a selection of tablet cartons that are compatible with pharmacy robots, driving cost-saving and time-saving efficiencies across the pharmacy.”

Dale Pittock, sales director, Valley Northern


Automation acts as a safety net for staff and patients

“GPs, pharmacists, hospitals and care homes could be responsible for 237 million medication errors a year; this is the equivalent of one mistake made for every five drugs administered. There is no excuse for poor medicines management within the NHS as technology exists to prevent the errors that can arise from the prescribing, dispensing and administration of drugs. These can be minimised or altogether eliminated with the use of technology like automation.

Automation addresses the flow of patients through trusts, discharge times, the focus of nursing and pharmacy staff on clinical services and ultimately the quality of care. But crucially, it offers a ‘safety net’ for those healthcare teams who are at the brunt of NHS cuts and pressures and who are trying to care for their patients. Any efficiency in the system that means they can spend more time delivering face-to-face patient care will be welcomed.

Automated medicine cabinets give the reassurance that the right medicine is available for the right patient at the point of care, aiding swift and safe discharge. The nurse logs in using a PIN code or fingerprint picks the patient name from the display screen, picks the medicine required and is then guided by a flashing light to the correct drawer.”

Paul O’Hanlon, managing director, Omnicell UK & Ireland