‘Embracing digital tech and cutting NHS wait times’ with BT

BT works with the NHS to pioneer AI-powered patient tools to reduce staff workload and improve care, highlighting the importance of global AI collaboration

BT has announced it is working with the NHS to pilot a new AI-powered Patient Concierge tool to streamline patient communication, simplify referrals and reduce staff workload for the NHS. 

The tool aims to reduce missed or double-booked appointments through the smart use of AI and supports BT’s efforts to support greater use of responsible AI and digital diagnostic technology across the health service.

NHS staff have called for ‘long overdue’ investments into health technology in attempts to tackle wait times for patient diagnosis and treatment. BT research uncovered that roughly three-quarters (74%) of NHS staff see future investments in technology as an absolute priority.

A growing sense of urgency concerning digital innovation in healthcare

It is believed that investment into healthcare technology like digital records, remote diagnosis and care, as well as digital skills training would cut wait lists, cut costs and improve patient outcomes.  

BT research found that four in five are calling for urgent collaboration between public and private sectors to deliver on the promise of the NHS’s Digital Transformation Strategy and Long Term Plan. NHS staff have also called for the rapid rollout of digital technology to tackle growing wait times for diagnosis and treatment, as concerns mount around existing targets to reduce hospital waiting lists in England.

Digital diagnostic tools, such as virtual image streaming, and community-based healthcare services, like virtual wards, are already revolutionising access to health services by allowing patients to be diagnosed and treated from the comfort of their home. However, more than half (59%) of the people working in the NHS believe that these pilot tools are taking too long to be adopted widely, which is ultimately holding back patient care.

The benefits of global investments into digital technology are clear, with health workers believing further investment would dramatically improve patient outcomes. Four in five (81%) of NHS staff surveyed believe greater use of digital diagnostic tools would cut NHS wait times, a similar proportion (83%) expect them to improve patient outcomes and 76% say that they would ultimately cut NHS costs. 

This also felt for virtual ward technology, with 76% believing further investment in this space would cut waiting times, while also improving patient outcomes (77%) and cutting costs too (71%). 

Collaboration to rollout AI and other digital tools is key

BT is already collaborating with organisations such as DeepC and AXON Diagnostics on new digital services and is working closely with the NHS through its Vanguard programme and Clinical Advisory Board, to support greater use of responsible AI and digital diagnostic technology across the health service. 

The company is also piloting a new AI powered Patient Concierge tool with Soprano Design to streamline patient communication, simplify referrals and reduce staff workload for the NHS.  

Its research found that more than half (53%) of NHS staff think AI will have a significant impact on clinical service delivery, most immediately through automated appointment booking and improving the accuracy of diagnosis. In addition, NHS staff now agree that AI has the potential to cut wait times (63%), improve patient outcomes (65%) and cut the cost of patient care (56%). 

Two thirds (72%) of the people using digital tech in the NHS every day think it is being held back by a lack of integration with other legacy technologies, while half (59%) complain about too many pilots that fail to roll out across the NHS. Staff have also acknowledged that these new innovations must cater to all patients, regardless of tech literacy. 

Commenting on the research, Professor Sultan Mahmud, BT’s Director of Healthcare, says: “At BT we have spent the last few months listening to thousands of people inside and outside the NHS, and the message is clear: ‘embrace digital tech and cut wait times’. Those on the frontline and behind the scenes have told us that investing in digitally-enabled services like diagnostics, care closer to home, and the careful use of AI in areas like diagnostics and NHS back office functions could help improve productivity. 

He continues: “We have the technology – what we need now is a coordinated approach. Government, citizens, NHS leaders and tech providers must work together to focus on the investment in infrastructure and delivery mechanisms that can help the challenged workforce. This is about realising the digital dividend of improved patient experience and reduced administrative burden for our clinicians.”

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