Years after the first cases of Covid-19 were reported in the US, the healthcare industry continues to feel the impact. Hospitals and health systems have been on the front lines of the pandemic since day one and are still struggling with shortages of skilled clinicians, overworked staff and financial losses. February 2022 Report by American College of Health Sciences found that workforce shortages top the list of top concerns for community hospital CEOs and a 2022 report by a patient safety organization ACRES ranked staff shortages number one among the main risks to patient safety.
For hospitals and health system leaders looking to hire more clinical staff and retain current staff, they must embrace and implement modernized technology designed to minimize workloads and allow healthcare professionals to focus on patient care.
The promise of AI in healthcare
The healthcare industry has begun to embrace technology to help resolve staffing tensions. This was most evident during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. At a time when staff are thin and the virus is widespread, hospitals and health systems have turned to technology, from using telemedicine to reach patients to using robots that emit ultraviolet light to quickly kill microorganisms found in hospital rooms at patients, public toilets and operating theatres.
Artificial intelligence has become a common feature of many healthcare technologies, but AI still has a negative reputation among many in the industry. This may be due to the hesitancy of some medical professionals who fear it will replace their jobs. Recently Medscape study of 1,500 doctors found that most doctors are worried or uncomfortable about AI, and almost one in three doctors believe their role could be threatened by AI software.
Although AI could never replace the doctor, the technology has been proven to complement and enhance the doctor’s expertise. The same Medscape survey found that most doctors (70%) said AI-based software would help make more accurate decisions, and 66% said they would likely consider using AI-based software if it were more -better than humans at some diagnostic tasks. There should be no doubt that AI provides value to the industry by helping clinicians perform many responsibilities faster and more accurately, ultimately helping to improve the quality of care. In addition, some technology-driven or robotic devices are designed to be operated by a laboratory assistant, allowing more patients to benefit from robotic assessment and the resulting diagnostic benefit.
Robotics and Automation
With the constant surges of Covid-19 variants, healthcare professionals are overworked, exhausted and leaving the profession in droves. According to a Medscape studythe physician burnout rate in 2020 was 42% and World Health Organization predicts a shortage of 18 million health workers by 2030.
Advanced technologies such as AI-driven robotics and automation offer a potential solution to the provider shortage, freeing healthcare professionals from repetitive and time-consuming tasks and allowing clinicians to focus on tasks that require a specialized touch. Robotics are used in various aspects of healthcare, ranging from performing administrative tasks to assisting in surgeries to sanitizing hospital rooms. Furthermore, found a study the use of robotic ultrasound systems allowed isolation and distance between patients and sonographers during the pandemic, reducing the risk of transmission. Robots have been an established and integral part of the healthcare industry for many years and will continue to help improve patient care long into the future.
Innovations in Ultrasound
In recent years, ultrasound technology has advanced rapidly in overcoming the vulnerability of reliability and operator mobility. From innovations such as Wi-Fi enabled devices to portable ultrasound devices that can be used at the bedside or in the operating room, ultrasound innovations are providing improved patient access. In addition, AI-powered ultrasound devices help reduce workload and increase efficiency for medical professionals performing the exam by guiding placement or location for each patient. This has a positive impact on the healthcare industry as it enables facilities to see and scan more patients with confidence.
One type of technology that combines AI, robotics, and automation is autonomous robotic ultrasound. Although transcranial Doppler (TCD) ultrasound is one of the most valuable tools for monitoring cerebral circulation, clinicians rarely use TCD because it is highly operator-dependent, and the manual technique requires extensive training and expertise. An experienced sonographer should focus on finding the patient’s transtemporal window and detecting the correct vessel based on their position, angle, and depth. With a handheld device, this takes time, experience, and expertise. Therefore, the use of TCD is limited.
Recent data from clinical trials presented at the International Stroke Conference compared clinicians’ use of robotic TCD versus non-robotic technology and found that clinicians using robotic TCD were three times more likely to identify serious cardiac problems that were completely missed by standard imaging diagnostics. Regardless of the diagnostic tool, the use of the technology should not be limited by a lack of qualified professionals with the knowledge of how to best use it. With the inclusion of AI and automation, autonomous robotic TCD can be used as an advanced diagnostic tool that many more healthcare professionals can use without rigorous training.
Robotics, artificial intelligence, and automation will continue to advance healthcare over the next few years. Using these technologies can help the industry improve patient care and increase operational efficiency.
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