The future of technology and AI (artificial intelligence) is one of the most hotly debated global topics, with healthcare nearly always cited as the sector with the most significant achievements so far and the highest potential for life-changing impact.
If healthcare AI is where it’s happening, then surely this has to have an impact on your nursing career. As a nursing agency, we've already seen the beginnings of a shift within the industry. Maybe you’ve already noticed changes and are curious, or even apprehensive as to what is just around the corner, in regards to your agency nurse job. We’re going to take a look at what is happening globally and in the UK in healthcare tech, hopefully allay any fears as to what the future holds and excite you about the potential for UK nursing and your agency nursing job.
Change is coming
Mobile technology has changed all of our lives over the last ten years, but healthcare technology is deemed to be at the same point as when smartphones first launched. We are just at the tip of the iceberg, and the pace of change is likely to increase significantly yet with different technologies interacting to discover new cures and treat patients.
This tech-heavy future may still be hard to envisage for most people, even agency nurses.
It’s not all robots and the stuff of sci-fi movies, however - although some of it is - surgeons will soon be able to perform robotic operations from overseas.
Much of the impending technology we’ve already come to accept in our everyday lives such as our smartphone assistants or Alexa in our homes.
AI applications, robotics, virtual reality and connected devices are already revolutionising the healthcare sector globally by reducing spending. PwC recently showed that it could save up to €90bill preventing childhood obesity, €70bill diagnosing and treating breast cancer, €8bill diagnosing dementia and improving patient outcomes - although it will take a long while yet to reach its full potential.
The overarching benefit, however, appears to lie in reducing the time-consuming elements of healthcare; shifting some of the human labour aspects to machines and enabling patients to look after their own needs where appropriate - this means taking some of the hard work out of agency nursing jobs.
AI is utilised in the operational side of healthcare already from improving how patients interact with healthcare providers and their services to using products that provide better diagnosis or patient advice. Even the NHS is currently beta testing their new NHS app (available on Google Play and Apple App stores now) which is to be the ‘digital front door’ to services and health information for patients and an opportunity for better analysis of patient and population data. We have our own Mayday Healthcare nursing agency app, to seamlessly allow our agency nurses to book shifts and update their availibility.
Is everybody ready for the healthcare revolution?
There are distinct challenges with providing advanced AI solutions despite the enormous potential benefits and the vast amount of funding being ploughed into new products globally.
There is doubt from both the patient side and the medical practitioners as to whether it can be trusted until wide-scale adoption proves its safety in all aspects. Whether the majority of patients can quickly adapt to the change (or want to) is another challenge.
Using the NHS app, for example, requires several technological hoops to jump through to set up an account which could well be beyond the average person (e.g. if you don’t know your NHS number you may have to video yourself reading out a number sent to your phone which may well be a step too far for many)
The data breakthrough
Many of the potential advances in healthcare technology are tied to the possibilities of data sharing, which nurse-patient confidentiality has curtailed so far.
Security is still an issue, but once that is solved, the potential to cross-reference all patient data and find patterns in the data will provide new insights that help predict, prevent and treat diseases. And then, we are indeed entering an evolution in healthcare
Global healthcare innovation
There is a wealth of change happening across the world, and yes robots are being utilised already! – mainly to cut back on tedious or difficult tasks and support nurses to free up time for more vital work
There are robots to:-
- transport items around hospitals such as medical devices, specimens, drugs
- quickly disinfect any area
- lift and move patients and help them stand
- keep patients company and help prevent loneliness or treat mental health issues
- act as receptionists
- take blood (there are also handheld vein scanners – even cheap 3d printed ones)
3D printing has already made significant strides in other medical areas too from finger splints to personalised plaster casts and prosthetic parts. It is especially useful in explaining what is happening to a patient with 3D printed models of body parts such as organs
Other technologies such as portable machines for diagnostics are helping agency nurses get round patients quicker with increased accessibility instead of the cupboard-sized ones of the past. The US is already using smart pills which send smartphone messages when the pill contacts stomach fluids to track medication and avoid overdosing. More smart pills are on their way to monitor heart and breathing rates - the level of healthcare innovation globally is genuinely breathtaking
The future of UK Healthcare technology
There are already nearly 3,700 medical technology companies generating a £21 billion turnover in the UK, and we’re grasping the potential of AI with both hands here too.
UCLH and the Alan Turing Institute is working on a project that uses data from 22,000 MRI scan appointments to identify 90% of patients that are likely to miss appointments. They hope to roll out the system more widely so patients the robot thinks won’t show up get a phone call to check if they’re coming or not.
Moorfield’s Eye Hospital is working on a trial with Google’s DeepMind to analyse eye scans and recognise 50 common eye problems with a success rate of 94.5% accurately diagnosed.
The UK Space Agency is collaborating with NHS England to reinvent existing space technology for medical applications. There have already been multiple successes with pill cameras, wearable monitors for the elderly to prevent falls, image projections from breast screening vans to assessment centres, apps that help prevent skin cancer and dementia tracking slippers!
The sheer cost of much of this technology may prove to be a barrier for all but the most prominent healthcare providers in the short to medium term - but if we don’t have the doctors and nurses available to manage health then AI may be the only viable option
In an agency nursing job, you are likely to see the profession change rapidly with the introduction of new technology and it is without a doubt that you may experience a steep learning curve over the coming years.
So what can you expect to see in UK Healthcare very soon?
It is hard to predict exactly what may be coming your way – so much depends on budgets and how new technology is rolled out and adopted (there have certainly been systems that have failed to deliver in the past). What we can predict is the areas that are most likely to change and benefit from AI
- Delivery of Care
Remote care or ‘virtual visits’ are a benefit of new healthcare technology with quicker and improved access to services and more efficient systems.
Patients may be able to speak to nurses and medical staff using portable video devices with 2-way cameras and use BP monitors and blood oxygenation equipment from their own homes. These remote services could be vital for people who live alone and the only practical way of checking whether they are struggling or not
It is thought that further transformation in this area is capable of saving the NHS 60% per patient with virtual assistants enabling doctors and nurses to treat from 5-10 times as many patients
- Speeding up the care process
Technology can help manage patients through the health system more effectively with the automation of routine aspects such as referrals and notifications, appointments, treatment schedules and with forms accessible digitally
Recovery wards already have the technology to monitor BP and HR and the machine learning technology to predict if a patient is going into shock and if a particular intervention is necessary. Widening the usage of such technology to GP surgeries needs to be the next step
- Care Management
We can now use Smart Wearables such as fitness monitors and health apps to notify patients when they need to take action and enable them to control their health even with chronic conditions. There is also the technology to allow patients to access their glucose readings on their phones via implantable monitoring systems.
Healthcare apps to look out for
Mental Health - The Ginger.io app gives someone suffering from depression access to 24 hr emotional support, coaching, therapy and psychiatry straight from their smartphone
Cancer Solutions - The DreamLab app helps speed up individualised cancer treatments by utilising the power from a massive number of smartphones on charge performing millions of calculations - all donated by people while they sleep
Symptom checking - This app may strike fear into most Doctors, but in tests against real doctors, this app from Babylon Health using AI to check symptoms and give health feedback scored a higher pass mark of 81% in comparison to the doctor's score of 72%
Failure to rescue alert - The Royal Free Hospital in London is using the Streams app to analyse when test results alongside information about previous conditions show a patient to be at serious risk. The app then alerts the doctor or nurse to allow them to reach the patient in time
Repeat Prescriptions - The Echo app, in conjunction with the NHS, delivers medicine to the patient's door (Freepost) and reminds them when and how to take it. The NHS hopes that the medication will be appropriately taken due to this app and that they may save billions of pounds currently being wasted on missed medication
Technology in hospitals is changing fast with patients tracked via Bluetooth tags and real-time tracking systems to tell their families when they’re out of surgery, equipment being connected to patients and their beds electronically, and doctors being able to access data such as X-rays on their phones at the bedside
The surgeon's job, however, may be the one where the most futuristic equipment is deployed. Augmented reality (AR) glasses now allow surgeons to see inside patients bodies using data with the subsequent scans superimposed on the patient's body.
VR is also currently being used in Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth hospital to let patients pedal around virtual scenes when recovering from limb injuries.
When will nurses start noticing these changes?
Whether you work for the NHS, or privately, you are likely to have already seen a change in your agency nursing job such as having more information to hand (from EPRs or electronic prescribing) rather than having to spend time searching for notes and deciphering poor handwriting.
Tech will hopefully be the answer to a multitude of healthcare woes – but the design and implementation are crucial. Solutions to patient care cannot be introduced without heavy involvement from those carrying out that care daily.
Nursing roles will change – for the better
The demand for nursing, in particular agency nurses, will continue to increase especially with an ageing population, but the position will undoubtedly change with the advent of technologies such as chatbots, 3d printing, robotics and VR freeing up the nursing role to focus more on creativity and empathy rather than heavy lifting and admin.
It is vital that nurses embrace the future and get as deeply involved with the development and implementation of new technologies as possible to enable these positive changes. As a nursing agency, Mayday Healtcare are committed to embracing change, and being part of the future of nursing.
Become an ‘e-nurse’!
(The RCN wants every nurse to be an e-nurse by 2020)
Whether you’re an RGN, HCA or a District Nurse, the expert Mayday Healthcare agency nursing recruitment team are available to advise you on the next step in your career. If you’re looking for a for a new agency nurse job, get in touch with Mayday Healthcare today.