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There has been a growing recognition of the benefits of digital transformation in South Africa’s healthcare industry

Several challenges – from economic uncertainty to a crippling skills shortage – are making it difficult for South Africa’s healthcare providers to deliver high-quality, timely care that meets the evolving needs of the communities they serve.

And, while South Africa’s healthcare sector has historically been somewhat hesitant to adopt new technology, there is indisputable evidence that automation and digitisation in healthcare is the best way to overcome challenges and grow institutions’ profits and nurture their growing patient base.

In fact, if one looks at some of the big use cases, the benefits of implementing smart automation in healthcare institutions by far outweigh any concerns that have been a barrier to adoption up until now, such as concerns about cost, data privacy, and security.

Smart automation in healthcare: Use cases

To mention just three of the publicly available cases:

  1. In 2018, Mount Sinai Health System in New York City implemented a smart automation system that uses machine learning algorithms to help predict patient readmissions and optimise care transitions. The system uses data from electronic health records, claims, and social determinants of health to identify high-risk patients and provide personalised care plans. As a result, the health system has seen a significant reduction in readmissions and improved patient outcomes.
  2. From 2019 to 2022 researchers at Johns Hopkins University developed an AI system called the Targeted Real-Time Early Warning System to improve the early detection of sepsis. The system scours medical records and clinical notes to identify patients at risk of life-threatening complications. A study involving more than 4 000 clinicians from five hospitals treating 590 000 patients over two years found that the AI system caught sepsis symptoms hours earlier than traditional methods, resulting in a 20% reduction in sepsis-related mortality rates.
  3. In 2018, Researchers at a hospital in Korea developed an artificial intelligence-based early warning system, called the Deep Learning-Based Early Warning System, to predict in-hospital cardiac arrest and unexpected ICU admission. A retrospective cohort study involved 8 039 adult patients admitted to the general ward of the hospital from April 2018 to March 2019. The deep learning-based system outperformed conventional methods such as the modified early warning score, reducing the number needed to examine and mean alarm count per day by 69.2% and 59.6%, respectively. The study showed the potential and effectiveness of artificial intelligence in a rapid response system, which can be applied together with electronic health records to identify patients with deterioration, and help with precise decision-making in daily practice.
A new dawn: Recognition of the power of digitisation and automation

Given these, and many other, use cases – there has been a growing recognition of the benefits of digital transformation in the healthcare industry, with the COVID-19 pandemic accelerating the adoption of new technology to an extent. For example, telemedicine has become more prevalent as a means of delivering healthcare remotely, and electronic health records (EHRs) are increasingly being used to store and manage patient data.

A 2019 study published in the BMC Medical Informatics and Decision-Making journal found that South African healthcare professionals had a positive attitude towards using mobile health (mHealth) technologies in their practice and were willing to adopt new mHealth applications that were perceived as useful and easy to use.

Another study published in the South African Medical Journal in 2020 found that the use of telemedicine in South Africa increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, with healthcare providers reporting high levels of satisfaction with telemedicine consultations.

While these insights point to a growing willingness to adopt new technology in the South African healthcare sector, the real-world paradigms out there – and there are many more – speak much louder than any words in any study.

A comprehensive whitepaper from DocFusion partner, jaam automation, highlights the need for innovation in healthcare and outlines some of the technologies that are being adopted to reduce errors, save time and improve patient care.

In our next segment on Healthcare Automation in South Africa, we look at the top 6 trends driving the adoption of document generation software in the healthcare sector and the solutions that address and progress these.

  1. Jaam – Can Intelligent Automation Transform Healthcare?
  2. Salesforce – How Digitally Enabled Healthcare Can Give Patients the Experiences They Expect
  3. Research Gate – Predictive Modeling of Hospital Readmission Rates Using Electronic Medical Record-Wide Machine Learning: A Case-Study Using Mount Sinai Heart Failure Cohort
  4. Hub – Sepsis Detection Has The Potential to Prevent Thousands of Deaths
  5. National Library of Medicine – Detecting Patient Deterioration Using Artificial Intelligence in a Rapid Response System
  6. BMC – Evaluating a South African mobile application for healthcare professionals to improve diagnosis and notification of pesticide poisonings
  7. National Library of Medicine – Essential health services delivery in South Africa during COVID-19: Community and healthcare worker perspectives

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