Automation in healthcare could reduce the need for GP visits, and save time and money in primary care, according to a new report launched by the health secretary.
The paper, published by campaign group Taxpayer’s Alliance, considered the existing and developing technology in the NHS and evaluated how automation could help amid staff shortages as it ‘frees healthcare professionals from more repetitive tasks and allows them to focus on patient care’.
The report found that 31% of GP time – equivalent to £962m – could potentially be freed up by automation due to improved productivity.
Additionally, it illustrated 53% of time spent on GP support (including patient care and non-clinical) could be freed up due to automation, equating to the value of £880m.
One case study outlining automation in the health sector looked at ArtemusICS, a data-driven platform which identifies patients at risk of hospital admission.
The use of the platform is said to have reduced GP and nurse visits by between 40 and 50% and decreased hospital admissions for care home patients in Sussex by up to 75%.
Professor of primary care at Imperial College London, Professor Azeem Majeed said: ‘In the case of ArtemusICS, none of the articles that cite its benefits appear to be peer-reviewed publications in academic journals.
‘In the real world, risk prediction tools such as ArtemusICS often don’t perform well because they can’t capture all the factors that contribute to deterioration in a patient. This has also been the case for many case-management interventions whereby some patients are targeted for extra support to reduce the risk of adverse outcomes such as emergency hospital admissions.
‘Like a lot of doctors, I would like to see the NHS get the ‘basics’ of IT right. This would include fast and reliable internet links, software that did not repeatedly crash or run very slowly, and better integration of IT systems to cut duplicate data entry.’
Professor Majeed added that although the NHS benefits from IT, it has ‘wasted large sums through the installation of failed IT systems.’
He said: ‘Hence, we have to be cautious about making grandiose claims for the benefits of IT to the NHS.’
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: ‘Automation and innovation are changing the way we live our lives and can transform the way we deliver public services for decades to come. It is mission critical for all of us who love and cherish our NHS that we seize the opportunities of the future and ensure that modern technology benefits staff, benefits patients and benefits our country as a whole.’
Mr Hancock recently announced that GP practices would soon have access to fibre-optic broadband as part of a plan to improve the range of digital healthcare services.
Chief executive of the Taxpayer’s Alliance John O’Connell said: ‘British taxpayers people pay for, and deserve, world-leading public services. The Government has committed to making the NHS a major spending priority, but everybody knows that it’s going to take more than just money to improve health services in this country.
‘The biggest priority should always be striving towards better outcomes for patients, which means freeing up NHS staff from monotonous tasks and giving them more time to spend on real care. Exciting developments in technology could deliver savings for taxpayers – but also, crucially, save more lives.’
It follows another report into the potential savings of automation published last year which suggested that £12bn could be saved by embracing automation.
At the beginning of this year, the Government launched the procurement process for providers of new GP IT systems, the GP IT Futures framework.