Healthcare has been under more strain than ever in recent years. While there are many reasons for this, increasing burnout and staff shortages among healthcare professionals as well as rising costs play a significant role.
Additionally, when we speak to people in the industry, something that comes up often is the reliance on outdated systems and how this makes transformation challenging. However, all is not lost! AI has the potential to seriously transform healthcare as a whole.
A large hospital in the Netherlands is integrating UNLESS’s AI technology to navigate its extensive internal knowledge base. With purpose-trained AI agents, the hospital has reduced time spent looking for information online as well as via human touchpoints and boosted productivity. Now, many questions are handled by the AI, enabling the team to focus their time and efforts on more pressing matters.
Challenging access to information in healthcare
When it comes to healthcare, there is simply too much information and too many procedures. Things people need to know to be able to do their jobs accurately and efficiently. However, finding the right information isn’t always easy, and as a result people often revert to asking others. This is causing an overload on the administrative side as well as in patient care.
Making the situation more complex, as acknowledged by McKinsey, many hospitals operate in silos, relying on manual inputs across fragmented systems that may not allow for easy data sharing or synthesis. This makes it harder for employees to comb through existing knowledge and find what they are looking for.
And the challenges don’t end there. Healthcare is an industry with very high turnover. While this is a global trend, let's look at the numbers in the Netherlands. According to Statistics Netherlands (CBS), last year a little over 155k employees left healthcare while close to 176k people started work, with most new employees coming directly from training. Keeping all of this in mind, there is an urgent need for access to and sharing of knowledge.
A study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that access to a generative AI-based conversational assistant increases workers’ productivity by 14% on average, including a 35% improvement for novice and low-skilled workers.
So what if you could put this technology into use, ask any question to your entire knowledge base, and receive an instant answer? That’s exactly what this hospital in the Netherlands has opted for. With the help of Unless, they’ve trained their own AI and added it as a virtual agent to their process of working, enabling access to information right at their fingertips.
Training the AI
As mentioned above, knowledge in healthcare can be rather scattered. So the first step for this hospital was identifying the use cases for their virtual assistant and gathering the information it would need to have access to.
Due to the nature of the industry, this information wasn’t easily accessible on a website or online help center. Instead, it consisted of hundreds of PDFs. Training and configuring your AI is easy to do in Unless, you can simply add a website source, FAQ, upload a PDF, etc. However, when it is hundreds of PDFs that one would have to upload, it may not be the most practical. Instead, Unless set out to integrate with the third-party software that this hospital uses to manage their documents, simplifying the process.
The solution in practice
With all the necessary knowledge required to operate within a healthcare context from administration and reporting to standard operating procedures (SOPs), onboarding so many new employees is rather costly. This also has an impact on how much time experienced employees have for other tasks.
While healthcare employees are generally well-trained and have extensive practical experience, there is simply too much documentation, and information is often scattered, making it a challenge even for the most experienced employees.
This causes significant time loss, time that can be better spent on patient care. According to McKinsey, AI can help remove or minimize time spent on routine, administrative tasks, which can take up to 70% of a healthcare practitioner’s time.
In this particular case, the documentation consisted heavily of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) which are a specific set of practices that are required to be initiated and followed when specific circumstances arise. To quote some examples, emergency room physicians have SOPs for patients who are brought in an unconscious state; nurses in an operating theater have SOPs for the forceps and swabs that they hand over to the operating surgeons; and laboratory technicians have SOPs for handling, testing, and subsequently discarding body fluids obtained from patients.
It is essential for a hospital to work in alignment with SOPs. Having an AI assistant can be very helpful in cases where people can’t remember the specifics of a particular process but can access it quickly without having to dive into the vast internal web of knowledge. This way employees can quickly refresh their memories which not only saves time but can reduce the risk of errors and ensure quality patient care.
Trained on all their documentation and able to answer questions quickly, the AI agent has led to significant savings in time and cost while also lessening the burden on employees.
In conclusion, the AI-powered knowledge management transformation undertaken by a Dutch hospital through its collaboration with UNLESS offers a compelling glimpse into the potential of artificial intelligence in healthcare.
Overcoming the challenges of information overload, fragmented systems, and high employee turnover, the integration of AI has led to improved productivity, cost savings, and a streamlined approach to knowledge access.
This case study demonstrates that AI-driven solutions have the capacity to alleviate burdens on healthcare professionals, allowing them to focus on patient care, reduce errors, and ultimately enhance the efficiency and quality of healthcare services.