Automation initiatives are already addressing challenges in health care human resources, wound care management, diagnostic imaging, and emergency department intake. What is the potential for wider expansion of health care automation applications?
Canadian health care organizations see an opportunity to improve the patient and provider experience while addressing the challenges brought on by a shrinking workforce and growing stakeholder interest in engaging with more health information, with greater access, from their home and in community settings. The use of AI, chatbots, and innovation in automation is providing new opportunities for extending access to health resources while optimizing provider time and focusing on front-line care delivery.
The pandemic exposed weaknesses in our health care system and highlighted the issues around clinician burnout and the shortage of human resources. The rapid spread of the Omicron variant has further strained our care systems and health care workers.
While health care is generally cautious about implementing new technology, pandemic-induced demands on how we deliver care have created opportunities for health care to modernize and digitize leaps and bounds ahead of what could have been predicted pre-pandemic. By necessity, virtual care delivery is happening now.
Where can automation help?
Automation can empower people to access health care outside of the system, for mental health, diabetes care, or home care. Predictive algorithms can monitor and follow up with patients living with comorbidities. Instant translation tools offer an increased ability to communicate with people speaking any language. Health care automation could be used to optimize the resources at remote sites for basic day-to-day tasks.
Technologies can be used to automate repetitive and time-consuming clinical tasks, freeing health care professionals to focus on providing care and using their clinical decision-making skills.
With health care automation, patients may gain better access to care through shorter response times, 24/7 access, the potential for remote and virtual health care, better diagnostic tools, and improved data sharing.
How can we maintain the forward movement toward automation-driven streamlined care?
Start by automating a small, simple solution based on clear rules without requiring extensive human judgment and oversight.
Create a structured process to determine which tasks to automate. Start small and build trust in the technology. Methods must be put in place to examine the training data to ensure it is trustworthy. Starting with quick wins, then iterating over time will develop momentum and trust in the process. Constantly reviewing what is working and what is not.
Automation tools must be developed in tandem with clinicians and patients while partnering with researchers and industry. Staff members and populations must be aware of the available systems and know how to use them. Ensure people on the frontline can partner with the industry to make these tools meaningful and automated to optimize the user experience.
Patients and providers both need access to broadband services with robust support for multi-channel communication. Accessibility for people with disabilities or lower rates of technical literacy should also be taken into consideration, as well as privacy and ethical considerations, training, interoperability, funding, and sustainability.
Join a health care automation community of action
Health care automation is happening now. We need more discussion about the best practices, methodologies, and tools required to foster the sustainable implementation of automation in Canadian health delivery. Digital Health Canada is inviting members to participate in a national Healthcare Automation Community of Action that will drive an agenda to improve automation in health care.