May 17, 2020

Survey Says Patients prefer to be "smart" with mHealth Apps

3 min
Survey Says Patients prefer to be “smart” with mHealth Apps .jpg
Written by Alyssa Clark Survey Says Patients prefer to be “smart” with mHealth Apps This may be hard to stomach- in a recent survey of 20...

Written by Alyssa Clark


Survey Says Patients prefer to be “smart” with mHealth Apps

This may be hard to stomach- in a recent survey of 2000 patients, 24% of contributing parties said they would be happier receiving prescriptions for an mHealth application rathe than a pill. The numbers say it all: 90% of patients were willing to accept a prescription for a mHealth app, compared to the 66% of patients who wanted a traditional doctor’s order for their respective medications.

Interestingly enough, 60% of mHealth users were diagnosed over three years which demonstrates that sufferers of chronic illnesses are always proactively searching for new and more efficient ways of maintaining their health. Digitas Health’s survey sampled prescription-taking and nonprescription-taking patients from a range of chronic illnesses. Some of the non-prescription drug-taking patients were being treated for diseases like digestive issues, heart conditions, respiratory diseases, diabetes and more.

With technological advances pushing the medical field further than ever before, patients suffering from chronic illness are highly interested in utilizing these available and “smart” online or virtual tools in order to better serve their personal needs.

“There’s an opportunity in this space to figure out how we can better serve patient needs and get them the treatment and information that’s going to make a difference to them,” said Geoff McCleary, Group Director of Mobile Innovations at Digitas Health.

This dedication to innovation and customer accessibility displays Digitas Health’s desire to be the one there to help those who are committed to helping themselves.

Convenience Sells

It’s no longer a secret that patients and consumers alike trust their smartphone medical apps the same, if not more, than traditional medical procedures or professionals. The survey demonstrated this need by suggesting that consumers are willing to spend money on smartphone-savvy medical applications and programs solely based on the matter of convenience.

Paying for convenience is not only a great sales strategy, but is an obvious standard in our daily lives, seeing as how much smartphone usage is incorporated in daily routines. Smartphones serve as alarm clocks, mobile notepads, calendars, and nowadays, even personal mini-doctors. Making the management of daily health routines easier is the goal of many healthcare organizations, but free devices like Fitbits and wireless scales are changing the game for patients based on cost-effectiveness and accessibility.

“They’re doing that adherence level activity already without us and we, as experts in drugs, have a great opportunity to be able to help them, by providing even more information, tools and resources to use in conjunction with their medicines,” McCleary explained.

Although we praise the innovation and modernity of today’s medical advancements, Digitas Health forewarns patients and consumers against relying too heavily on easy-access smartphone apps and encourages them to practice balance when mixing convenience with serious health matters. Building a successful connection between the virtual benefits of online mHealth apps while still trusting in traditional medicinal practices proves to be the recipe for success in today’s personal healthcare world.

“It’s about acknowledging the blurring of the lines between product and service and asking what the new evolution of healthcare should look like,” McCleary explained. “The importance of this information is really around getting a better understanding of how that pill and that medication is going to be used. How does that fit into the life of the human being that needs to have that health outcome?”

About the Author

Alyssa Clark is the Editor of Healthcare Global

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Jun 11, 2021

How UiPath robots are helping with the NHS backlog

6 min
UiPath software robots are helping clinicians at Dublin's Mater Hospital save valuable time

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many hospitals to have logistical nightmares, as backlogs of surgeries built up as a result of cancellations. The BMJ has estimated it will take the UK's National Health Service (NHS) a year and a half to recover

However software robots can help, by automating computer-based processes such as replenishing inventory, managing patient bookings, and digitising patient files. Mark O’Connor, Public Sector Director for Ireland at UiPath, tells us how they deployed robots at Mater Hospital in Dublin, saving clinicians valuable time. 

When Did Mater Hospital implement the software robots - was it specifically to address the challenges of the pandemic? 
The need for automation at Mater Hospital pre-existed the pandemic but it was the onset of COVID-19 that got the team to turn to the technology and start introducing software robots into the workflow of doctors and nurses. 

The pandemic placed an increased administrative strain on the Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) department at Mater Hospital in Dublin. To combat the problem and ensure that nurses could spend more time with their patients and less time on admin, the IPC deployed its first software robots in March 2020. 

The IPC at Mater plans to continue using robots to manage data around drug resistant microbes such as MRSA once the COVID-19 crisis subsides. 

What tasks do they perform? 
In the IPC at Mater Hospital, software robots have taken the task of reporting COVID-19 test results. Pre-automation, the process created during the 2003 SARS outbreak required a clinician to log into the laboratory system, extract a disease code and then manually enter the results into a data platform. This was hugely time consuming, taking up to three hours of a nurse’s day. 

UiPath software robots are now responsible for this task. They process the data in a fraction of the time, distributing patient results in minutes and consequently freeing up to 18 hours of each IPC nurse’s time each week, and up to 936 hours over the course of a year. As a result, the healthcare professionals can spend more time caring for their patients and less time on repetitive tasks and admin work. 

Is there any possibility of error with software robots, compared to humans? 
By nature, humans are prone to make mistakes, especially when working under pressure, under strict deadlines and while handling a large volume of data while performing repetitive tasks.  

Once taught the process, software robots, on the other hand, will follow the same steps every time without the risk of the inevitable human error. Simply speaking, robots can perform data-intensive tasks more quickly and accurately than humans can. 

Which members of staff benefit the most, and what can they do with the time saved? 
In the case of Mater Hospital, the IPC unit has adopted a robot for every nurse approach. This means that every nurse in the department has access to a robot to help reduce the burden of their admin work. Rather than spending time entering test results, they can focus on the work that requires their human ingenuity, empathy and skill – taking care of their patients. 

In other sectors, the story is no different. Every job will have some repetitive nature to it. Whether that be a finance department processing thousands of invoices a day or simply having to send one daily email. If a task is repetitive and data-intensive, the chances are that a software robot can help. Just like with the nurses in the IPC, these employees can then focus on handling exceptions and on work that requires decision making or creativity - the work that people enjoy doing. 

How can software robots most benefit healthcare providers both during a pandemic and beyond? 
When the COVID-19 outbreak hit, software robots were deployed to lessen the administrative strain healthcare professionals were facing and give them more time to care for an increased number of patients. With hospitals around the world at capacity, every moment with a patient counted. 

Now, the NHS and other healthcare providers face a huge backlog of routine surgeries and procedures following cancellations during the pandemic. In the UK alone, 5 million people are waiting for treatment and it’s estimated that this could cause 6,400 excess deaths by the end of next year if the problem isn’t rectified.

Many healthcare organisations have now acquired the skills needed to deploy automation, therefore it will be easier for them to build more robots to respond to the backlog going forwards. Software robots that had been processing registrations at COVID test sites, for example, could now be taught how to schedule procedures, process patient details or even manage procurement and recruitment to help streamline the processes associated with the backlog. The possibilities are vast. 

The technology, however, should not be considered a short-term, tactical and reactive solution that can be deployed in times of crisis. Automation has the power to solve systematic problems that healthcare providers face year-round. Hospital managers should consider the wider challenge of dealing with endless repetitive work that saps the energy of professionals and turns attention away from patient care and discuss how investing in a long-term automation project could help alleviate these issues. 

How widely adopted is this technology in healthcare at the moment?
Automation was being used in healthcare around the world before the pandemic, but the COVID-19 outbreak has certainly accelerated the trend.  

Automation’s reach is wide. From the NHS Shared Business Service in the UK to the Cleveland Clinic in the US and healthcare organisations in the likes of Norway, India and Canada, we see a huge range of healthcare providers deploying automation technology. 

Many healthcare providers, however, are still in the early stages of their journeys or are just discovering automation’s potential because of the pandemic. I expect to see the deployment of software robots in healthcare grow over the coming years as its benefits continue to be realised globally. 

How do you see this technology evolving in the future? 
If one thing is certain, it’s that the technology will continue to evolve and grow over time – and I believe there will come a point in time when all processes that can be automated, will be automated. This is known as the fully automated enterprise. 

By joining all automation projects into one enterprise-wide effort, the healthcare industry can tap into the full benefits of the technology. This will involve software robots becoming increasingly intelligent in order to reach and improve more processes. Integrating the capabilities of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning into automation, for example, will allow providers to reach non-rule-based processes too. 

We are already seeing steps towards this being taken by NHS Shared Business Service, for example. The organisation, which provides non-clinical services to around two-thirds of all NHS provider trusts and every clinical commissioning organisation in the UK, is working to create an entire eco-system of robots. It believes that no automation should be looked at in isolation, but rather the technology should stretch across departments and functions. As such, inefficiencies in the care pathway can be significantly reduced, saving healthcare providers a substantial amount of time and money. 

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