Doctors are famous for poor handwriting, but messy paperwork could kill.

Just last month, a New Zealand hospital was found to be giving a patient the wrong medication at the wrong dosage due to messy notes. “Any process that depends on a doctor’s handwriting of course has an inherent risk,” explains Gabe Ripjma, Senior Director of Health and Social Services at Microsoft Asia.

Switzerland seems to have the answer. “One of the things you are starting to see in some of the leading hospitals is robots that do packaging, portioning and labelling the drugs,” Ripjma says. Combined with digital barcodes, prescription errors can be massively reduced, he adds.

Use of robotics is just one of many steps hospitals can take to increase service quality and patient safety. Here are three more:

1. Analytics can improve care quality

Doctors can combine lab results with the medical history of similar patients, to help them decide the best time to discharge someone. It will also warn of patients who are at risk of readmission, Ripjma says.

Analytics could even be used to personalise treatment and care plans using patients’ DNA. Just a swab in a patient’s mouth can allow a hospital to sequence a genome. That data will need huge computing power to be analysed, but machine learning advances such as Cortana Analytics can allow this information to be processed, giving a doctor invaluable information.

Gabe Ripjma, Senior Director of Health and Social Services at Microsoft Asia

2. Virtual training can improve rural standards

Rural clinics can struggle to maintain their standards. It is much harder to train staff when they are far from city centres with good facilities.

However, this is now changing. Hospitals can use video conferencing service to bring staff from different locations together for online courses, Ripjma says. They can record the sessions to watch them at a more convenient time. “The ability to archive a video recording and make it available later on is highly valuable for people who are busy in their clinical workday,” he adds.

3. Reach more patients with cloud computing

For patients in remote areas, traveling to a city may not be justified until the illness becomes much worse.

Telehealth can provide rural patients with better care. A rural health centre can connect to a hospital in the city using video conferencing, Ripjma says. A dermatologist, for example, could then diagnose skin conditions remotely.

Next, rural doctors can use wireless medical equipment to send more detailed readings directly to a doctor in the city. This provides faster and more accurate diagnostics.

These steps are all possible today, and can greatly assist a hospital chain that wants to ensure patient safety; quality of service; and good rural delivery. Complete the below form if you would like to hear more from Microsoft.