How can technology reduce healthcare costs?

The UK’s healthcare system is under unprecedented pressure.

The answer could well be technological innovation. According to the UK government, the “application of a wide range of technologies presents the possibility to transform health systems and create a more person-centred service.”

For new technologies to have this transformational power, they must be financially viable and beneficial. So, is it possible? And what are the rewards? Below are three great examples of ways in which technology can reduce healthcare costs.

Automating administrative tasks with natural language processing (NLP)

There are currently more administrative and non-clinical employees in England’s general practice workforce than there are GPs, nurses and other direct patient care staff combined.

The time GPs and nurses can spend with patients is also restricted by paperwork, but technology can ease pressure and reduce operational costs by automating and simplifying many administrative tasks.

Natural language processing (NLP) is a specialised branch of artificial intelligence that focuses on the interpretation and manipulation of human-generated spoken or written data. In a healthcare setting, this kind of tech can automate tasks that staff would usually complete manually, such as information extraction (GP’s handwritten patient notes and prescriptions, for example), data entry and document categorisation.

The result would be lower staff costs and more time for practitioners to spend with patients.

Streamlining care provision and patient monitoring with mobile technology

The average 9-minute GP appointment costs the NHS around £40. While telephone consultations allow doctors and nurses to screen and guide patients remotely, the level of care they can give is limited to conversational advice.

Remote healthcare monitoring technologies, however, such as wearable devices that transmit health data to mobile apps, allow GP’s and consultants to monitor their patients’ conditions from afar and make more informed (and cost-efficient) decisions on who needs to be seen and treated in person.

As well as saving time for clinicians and patients, this kind of technology can cut costs by shortening hospital stays, improving patient knowledge and making it easier for less-mobile patients to access the care they need.

Improving practitioners’ skills with remote training platforms

Training medical practitioners isn’t cheap. According to government data, it takes £230,000 to train one doctor, and the cost rises for specialists like surgeons and consultants.

While students take on some of the financial burdens, the Department for Health and Social Care must also account for training and development in its annual budget. Any reductions here allow more to be spent in other areas, such as developing and approving new medicines.

Remote training platforms make upskilling medical professionals easier and cheaper. Online learning, whether delivered by universities or directly by healthcare providers, reduces training time (and therefore spending) while making it easier for staff and students to improve their skills from any location.

Technology allows training to be conducted in 3D with a sense of touch and movement like never before

edX, for example, provides online courses covering various medical subjects, all delivered by established institutions such as Harvard University and the University of Cambridge. Then there are platforms like Touch Surgery, a mobile-based surgical tool that allows practitioners to train and prepare for procedures on smartphones and tablets without risking patient health.

Virtual reality (VR) and simulations are also being used to help medical professionals to learn in a more effective way. The technology allows training to be conducted in 3D with a sense of touch and movement like never before, and due to VR technology becoming more affordable, it’s becoming a great training option. For example, the Royal College of Surgeons for England accredited the virtual reality platform, Fundamental Surgery, so surgeons can now train with the same visuals, sound and feel as in real surgery.

These types of tools also allow professionals and students to learn from the best experts in their field, wherever they’re based, meaning providers can improve their workforces in a cost-efficient way.

Looking for research and development support?

These are just three examples of how technology can make governments’ and healthcare providers’ budgets go further. To maximise the effectiveness of technologies like mobile, AI and NLP in the sector, UK businesses must be able to access innovation funding, such as R&D tax credits.

That’s where Kene Partners can help.

As R&D tax credit specialists, we’ve created a simple report so you can determine which innovation funding options are available to your business – and what for. Take our free eligibility assessment today to learn more about the help on offer, or book a free consultation to chat with one of our friendly experts.

With a mix of COVID-19, evolving environments and an ageing population is stretching the resources of both public and private providers, and there’s little sign of the strain easing on healthcare providers. Is more technology the answer?