Imagine a barista at a coffee shop receiving an order for 100 different drink orders. They’ll probably soon find themselves stressed, getting orders wrong, and spilling milk everywhere. In Japan, a coffee shop supported its staff with a robot barista capable of making 200 cups of coffee per hour.
Rather than drink orders, the healthcare industry is juggling patient care amidst pandemics, while facing workforce shortages and rising expenses. In a similar way, adopting technology can help support these important public sector staff.
How does technology allow healthcare providers to deliver quality healthcare that puts patients first? Peter Williams, Healthcare Advisor APAC at Oracle, shares how data analytics and AI can make the healthcare experience even more patient-centric.
The challenges ahead for healthcare
“We are going through an enormous period of disruption in terms of the changes in healthcare,” says Williams. While keeping up with the fast pace of change, the healthcare industry faces two problems.
Firstly, there is a critical shortage of healthcare workers. Healthcare workers are resigning, shared Janil Puthucheary, Singapore Senior Minister of State for Health. In the first half of 2021, around 1,500 healthcare workers resigned, compared with 2,000 annually pre-pandemic, according to the Minister.
Before the pandemic the global healthcare workforce was already being overstretched, especially in developed countries where there is an increasing rate of chronic disease and ageing populations, Williams says.
Secondly, hospitals are needing to adapt to changing payment models. Public healthcare systems around the world, such as the National University Health System in Singapore, are adopting value-driven outcomes in healthcare as the new way forward. This means that patients pay according to the quality of health services, instead of being charged just for the procedure.
Hospitals will inevitably face challenges in adapting to different cost structures and payment models when transiting to a value-based healthcare system.
Making healthcare patient-first
Hospitals need to be patient-centric, Williams emphasises. This means understanding the full healthcare journey seen from the eyes of the patient. The healthcare service is personalized to the patient’s needs, instead of adopting a one-size-fits-all approach.
When providing a patient with a medical device, for example, understanding the supply chain is not only concerned with the procurement process. You also need to understand which patient received the device, for what purpose, what maintenance is required, how to manage product recalls, and so on, explains Williams.
Data is key to enabling patient-centricity and not only clinical data. It allows staff to keep track of how many medical supplies, such as bandages, are being used up and restock them in a timely way and avoid delays. HR data also helps hospitals ensure that there are enough clinical staff to meet patient demand in times of need to maintain quality of service.
How can hospitals get the data to be more patient-centric? Hospitals need to look at both their front and back-office processes and understand and their impact on the patient journey, Williams shares. But this isn’t possible when you have 20 systems tackling different aspects of the process, making it unsustainable and costly to maintain. Modern solutions take a platform approach wherever possible, Williams highlights.
Using data analytics and AI technology
Hospital processes can be made more efficient by using data analytics and AI. Oracle tools help hospitals achieve that. Using AI technology, data becomes actionable insights. Oracle’s software can use AI to make recommendations for staff in providing healthcare services, Williams shares.
For instance, applications generate graphs and reports and the AI can then automatically review and provide an analysis of the data. “You may be using data science to generate information, but you don’t need to be a data scientist to understand it,” he adds.
When medical resources like vaccines are low during times of crisis, hospitals can also use AI to model and predict how much is expected to be used and when they need to scale up, including taking account of other factors such as staff availability to actually administer the vaccines.
South Korean cardiac specialty hospital, Sejong Clinic, used Oracle tools to streamline and deliver critical patient data in real-time. This allows medical staff to make life-saving decisions in minutes, while it used to take hours.
Adventist Health, which manages 22 hospitals in the US, updated all of its processes to Oracle Cloud, allowing them to centralise its financial and human resources operations. With the help of data analytics, they can generate financial forecasts quickly, reducing the budget timeline from six to three months.
Looking forward, it is important to understand the next key trends in technology and how the healthcare industry can use them. Oracle has published a series called “Modern Best Practice—Predicted” which explores how technology can transform healthcare in the future.
How software as a system (SaaS) can help hospitals
Software as a service (SaaS) is a software solution that is developed and maintained by a cloud service provider, where organisations only need to pay for what they use. SaaS tools offer benefits in three ways compared to current on-premise software in hospitals.
First, SaaS software is regularly updated, so organisations can enjoy the newest digital capabilities. “If you’ve got a SaaS solution, then every quarter, you are getting all the current functionality,” Williams explains. Hospitals can take advantage of the newest innovations to get ahead of the curve.
The regular update process also means that there is no disruption in workflows that occurs with annual on-premise upgrades. Hospital processes can fit in closely to the medical staff’s work and not distract them from their primary task, Williams says. This is especially important as clinical staff will only become busier due to current shortages of labour.
Second, SaaS software is scalable, so it can be easily adjusted depending on the organisation’s demands and operations. When planning the hospital’s activities, hospitals can use SaaS solutions to quickly plug into business needs at any level, William shares.
Third, when the SaaS software is built on a single cloud platform it lets the management team know everything that is going on in the hospital in one glance by drawing on the combined data from all sources It also allows hospitals to easily get the data they need across multiple departments.
In hospitals, where a few seconds can mean the difference between life and death, data analytics and AI are life-savers. Healthcare providers no longer need to spend unnecessary time dealing with administrative processes that can be easily automated with technology. They can finally focus on what lies at the heart of healthcare—caring for patients.