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Transformational AI robots are freeing up NHS staff to work on the frontline

PUBLISHED: 19:00 01 October 2019

Doctors and nurses working for ESNEFT have more time to care for patients after high-tech AI robots helps reduce time spent on mundane tasks. Model used for picture. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Doctors and nurses working for ESNEFT have more time to care for patients after high-tech AI robots helps reduce time spent on mundane tasks. Model used for picture. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

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Staff working at hospitals in Ipswich and Colchester are being given more time to care for patients after the introduction of brand new AI robots.

The new "transformational" robots, which use artificial intelligence to complete admin tasks quickly have been used to minimise efforts spent on the most mundane tasks, freeing up doctors and nurses to provide better care for their patients.

Staff working for the East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust are now seeing real-life benefits of the futuristic technology, which is being used to update patient record systems and cancelling and reallocating appointments for out-patients.

The technology overrides human error and is saving £1.5million a year, meaning the trust can offer an additional 15,000 appointments a year.

The AI robots are also saving cardio-respiratory doctors four hours a day by completely automating the bookings of diagnostic procedures.

Such is the success of the introduction of A1 that the trust has won the praise of the bosses of global media powerhouse Microsoft in their most recent study looking at the future of AI use in business in the UK.

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Darren Atkins, chief technology officer at East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust (ESNEFT), who has overseen the first ever Robotic Process Automation (RPA), said: "It is about automating existing processes to make them a lot faster and free up staff from the parts of their roles they enjoy least.

"If a patient spends one less minute queuing up to pay for their car park ticket because we have automated it, that is time they can spend with their doctor, getting the help they need.

"Above all, we want to wake up the whole organisation to the idea of using automation.

"The real value is around having better outcomes for patients and providing our medical staff with more time to spend with the people they treat."

In its first month of use in 2018, five robots helped save the hospital 300 hours of work time a month and, following some fine tuning, now saves 4,500 hours a month - the equivalent to 30 members of staff, or £60,000 in wages.

Over a full 12 months, the robots could help save millions pounds, which the trust say will free up staff so that patients receive even better care from their providers.

Clare Barclay, chief operating officer for Microsoft UK, said: "I think it's now we have to get serious about the benefit that this kind of technology will bring."

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