Over the course of a typical 12-hour shift, healthcare staff have a lot to contend with. Patient workloads are hard to predict. Plus, there are multiple supporting tasks to be done. And, as we all know, resources are severely stretched. Is this why analysts are predicting surging demand for personal digital assistants in healthcare?
The primary aim of personal digital assistants in healthcare is to take away some of the burdens that hang on the shoulders of frontline workers. How? They reduce the manual workload by automating repetitive checks, prompt and instruct staff to increase efficiency and automatically capture information to save time spent on reporting.
The benefits are already proven. One medical group has reported a rapid improvement in consistent standards of best practice since introduction personal digital assistants.
Personal digital assistants in healthcare are not just about supporting staff with their daily workload but freeing them up to focus their time and skills where they add the greatest value – caring for patients.
And that focus has never been more important. The pandemic has brought an unprecedented peak in demand for healthcare services while simultaneously weakening the workforce with burnout, resignations, illness and isolation measures.
In a recent survey, 88% of NHS leaders said the demands on their organisation were unsustainable. And almost the same number (87%) said an overall lack of staffing in the NHS was putting patient safety and care at risk.
A predicted rise in the use of personal digital assistants in healthcare will not reverse these worrying trends alone. But supportive technology has numerous benefits, not only in terms of staff wellbeing and efficiency but patient outcomes.
What is a personal digital assistant in healthcare?
Personal digital assistants in healthcare take a number of forms, from voice-activated smart speakers to mobile apps. But they are all based on software that supports people in their work, helping with scheduling, prompts and guidance, while automatically capturing the details of this activity and other information via cloud storage.
Digital transformation in healthcare has largely been directed towards innovations that directly support patient care. In recent times, we’ve seen the development of electronic patient records, appointments via video conferencing, wearable health tracking devices and online information portals.
But there is an opportunity to extend much-needed digital capabilities to staff themselves, which can ultimately enhance patient care and safety.
What are the benefits of personal digital assistants in healthcare?
A study published by the Journal of Nursing analysed the benefits of personal digital assistants and reported that the technology offered the potential to “revolutionise the way that nurses provide and record care”.
The study concluded: “Personal digital assistants (PDA) have been shown to have the potential to increase the quality of nursing care provided in the hospital setting by helping nurses better meet some of the major challenges that the profession faces today. PDAs have been shown to have the ability to increase evidence-based practice, decrease medication errors, and increase efficiency and accuracy of electronic patient charting. Furthermore, the portability, ease of use, and near instant access to information that PDAs provide makes them very appealing tools for nurses. As nurses and organisations begin to recognise the potential for PDAs, and as more nursing-focused software and resources continue to be developed, PDAs truly have the potential to revolutionise the way that nurses provide and record care.”
Let’s look in more detail at five key benefits of personal digital assistants in healthcare.
1. Saving time with personal digital assistants in healthcare
Digital assistants reduce time spent on manual checks by prompting, guiding and logging activity in real-time. The activity might range from regular duties to unscheduled tasks and responses to specific events, including alerts from sensors such as automated automated temperature monitoring of medicine fridges. What’s more, digital assistant platforms such as Checkit enable teams to collaborate by sharing work between them so that tasks are completed faster.
This not only reduces the amount of time frontline workers need to spend filling in paperwork or spreadsheets – often after their shifts have finished – but also saves managers from having to search through vast files when trying to gather information.
Time saved can be redirected towards activity that directly enhances patient interaction and care quality.
Stress management is vital to the resilience of health services and personal digital assistants improve all-round visibility of workloads.
2. Creating a digital audit trail to strengthen compliance
Healthcare teams operate in an environment with rigorous compliance requirements. Accurate reporting is crucial to meeting regulatory standards but as healthcare providers gradually move away from paperwork, there’s a growing need to move compliance reporting into the digital sphere.
A key advantage of personal digital assistants in healthcare is that they automatically capture data relating to key compliance activity, including medicine storage, equipment checking and cleaning regimes.
In a pilot programme at an NHS hospital, the blood sciences team used Checkit to digitise the standard operating procedures that govern compliance. A series of key performance indicators were established to measure performance. The use of personal digital assistants showed an increase in compliance with key criteria.
3. Rapid onboarding with personal digital assistants in healthcare
The 24/7 demands of hospitals have combined with staff shortages to create an environment where temporary, agency, new or redeployed staff are continuously joining frontline teams.
With little time for formal training on local procedures, staff who are unfamiliar with their working environment can benefit from guidance delivered by personal digital assistants.
Digital assistants such as Checkit are available to users in the form of a mobile app that delivers step-by-step instructions that are time and location specific. The assistant prompts users to carry out certain activity and enables them to scan QR codes which link given tasks to specific locations.
This has been shown to reduce ramp-up time and enable faster onboarding of staff.
4. Reducing errors with personal digital assistants in healthcare
The stressful, busy and dynamic characteristics of healthcare settings means errors are always possible and restricted resources only increase the risk.
There are particular risks relating to the identification, transit, storage and management of blood donations, biopsies and medicines, for example. Many of these processes rely on paperwork which is vulnerable to delays, inaccuracy and missing information.
Personal digital assistants reduce risks by not only delivering real-time guidance to frontline staff but also providing managers with data that enables them to pick up on any areas of weakness and address them with direct support or training before errors occur.
5. Closing the digital skills gap in healthcare
A shortage of digital skills is one of the obstacles standing in the way of healthcare transformation. In the UK, Coventry University conducted research to examine the importance of technological change to combat the challenges facing the healthcare sector.
Researchers identified a series of specific knowledge gaps, including lack of sufficient skills and knowledge in leading digital transformation in the NHS; adapting to state-of-the-art technologies; data analytics; and educating others.
The digital experiences of staff will be an increasingly important factor as the healthcare sector strives to attract younger people into its workforce. New generations of workers will have rising expectations of the technology they encounter in the workplace.
The growing use of personal digital assistants in healthcare provides a gateway into greater technology adoption. Digital assistants like Checkit deliver intuitive interfaces and easy-to-follow instructions in the familiar form of a mobile device, increasing confidence, job satisfaction and engagement within this vital workforce.