The Human Touch is Still Important in the Age of Automation
There’s no denying that automation and artificial intelligence (AI) have streamlined many administrative healthcare tasks. Most patients will agree that the convenience involved with scheduling appointments and accessing their healthcare information is beneficial, and almost expected, at this time. But that doesn’t serve as a substitute for the essence of healthcare—the human touch. As a nurse leader, it’s important to carve that careful balance of increasing productivity with automation while maintaining what patients expect, and that’s care and compassion from their nurse.
Automation or Artificial Intelligence
The terms automation and artificial intelligence (AI) are often used interchangeably, but there are a few differences. Automation can be helpful for productivity by assisting in making tasks more efficient and cost-effective. It’s a software that collects data and follows pre-programmed rules to free nurses up from performing repetitive or monotonous tasks. This allows nurses to focus on more important tasks that require what nurses excel at—critical thinking, and more importantly, adding the human touch to their care.
Artificial intelligence (AI), on the other hand, is designed to simulate human thinking. It seeks patterns, learns from experience, and like humans, it can learn to understand data. This may have some nurses worrying that Al can replace them. But AI isn’t human, and can’t replace the compassion that’s at the heart of the nursing profession. That’s usually what patients want when they’re feeling they’re most vulnerable.
Collaborate with Technology
Most people don’t want to talk to a computer or a recording, they want a real person. Someone who can hold their hand, or calm their fears and know how to address their unique needs. Machines can’t understand the unpredictable aspects of human emotions. With the increasing challenges in recruiting new nurses to the profession and the nursing shortage, use of automation and AI may assist with nurses workload while helping to maintain productivity. If technology is viewed and presented as a tool, it can work collaboratively with nurses.
An optimal balance is to reap the benefits technology brings while maintaining a personal touch. Basic tasks like gathering vital signs may be something automated while nurses utilize assessment and critical thinking skills to analyze the results, or for other important tasks. This can enable them to have more time to spend with patients providing compassionate care. While having access to the latest technology at their fingertips can ensure they stay up-to-date to provide the most relevant care.
AI and Healthcare
AI is playing an increasing role in healthcare by enabling more accurate diagnosis and treatment. It may also ease some administrative burden to allow more one-on-one time with patients. A few ways technology through automation and artificial intelligence (AI) are impacting healthcare include:
- Telehealth has allowed us to bring healthcare into the home. This is beneficial for patients who can’t make it into the facility and provides the convenience of virtually bringing a nurse, or another healthcare provider, into the home.
- Automated patient communication platforms are working to increase efficiency in the office. A kiosk may assist in answering questions and gathering information instead of a receptionist.
- Chatbots can answer questions, conduct a conversation, and be directed to perform specific tasks. Most are familiar with Siri or Alexa. Chatbots could also be built into messengers like Slack to assist with workforce communication and productivity.
- Diagnostic tools are changing with AI. New studies have shown that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can be diagnosed with 89% accuracy through analyzation of veterans voices using speech-based characteristics. Diabetic retinopathy has been detected with a new diagnostic tool, RetinaScope, that can turn a smartphone into a retinal camera. The accuracy of AI inspired diagnostic tools can be enhanced when it’s combined with a healthcare provider.
Some nurses may feel threatened at the increasing presence of automation and AI in healthcare. Take the time to educate and develop an understanding of new technology and allow nurses the ability to participate in implementation. This may make nurses more receptive to incorporating new technology. Automation, AI, and other forms of technology aren’t intended to replace nurses but are one way to assist in increasing accuracy and productivity when the human mind can become fatigued or overwhelmed. Allowing nursing staff to have a say, and presenting what may be in the best interests of patients, may make it a smoother transition.
Increased automation and AI will continue, so it’s important for nurses to become educated, and have a say, regarding how to best utilize new technology in healthcare. It may assist in professional growth and to keep the organization, and nurse leaders, relevant to the changing times in healthcare.
Adapting to Change
Nurses are known for their ability to adapt. Voted the most trusted profession for 20 years in the Gallup poll, it’s obvious that nurses will always have an important role in healthcare, and unlikely to be replaced by either AI or automation. That doesn’t mean that AI and automation can’t play an important role in providing nursing care. Harnessing the benefits of technology can help to ensure that nurses have more time with their patients, since heartfelt compassion, and the human touch can’t be easily replicated.