30% of These Nurse Tasks Could Be Done By AI, Report
A recent report released by Accenture suggests that new technology could help solve the nursing shortage by delegating certain administrative tasks to artificial intelligence (AI).
Addressing the nursing shortage crisis
The nursing shortage is considered a global crisis, with one estimate suggesting that the healthcare industry will need to replace up to 13 million nurses worldwide in the coming years. The reasons behind the nursing shortage are complex and multifaceted. Burnout, unsafe staffing, workplace violence, low pay, and more can play a role in a nurse’s decision to leave the bedside.
Healthcare organizations are utilizing “quick fixes”, including costly agency staff, to fill in the gaps. These expensive methods often eventually result in additional cuts due to budget constraints, including reducing staff, closing units, and more. This puts more stress on the remaining nurses and encourages them to leave.
Healthcare is at a breaking point and reinventing the healthcare delivery model could be the solution the nursing shortage desperately needs.
Accenture’s report features original research, including highlights from the Accenture Technology Vision 2023 among 4,777 C-level executives, including 300 from health providers. It also cites the HIMSS State and Future of Healthcare; Clinician Findings from a survey of 309 clinicians in the US.
It focuses on the idea of reinventing care delivery in order to improve healthcare access and patient outcomes. One aspect of reinvention is automating certain administrative processes that bog down nurses’ time.
There is significant evidence to suggest that nurses are being significantly hindered by inefficient processes. For example, the report references a study that found that only 21% of a nurse’s time is spent providing direct patient care. The rest of their time at work is used doing non-patient care duties, including charting and other administrative tasks.
Accenture’s report estimates that 30% of nurses’ administrative tasks could be automated or reassigned to AI, allowing nurses more time to focus on patient care. Their research suggests that nurses are open to the idea, as 93% of clinicians surveyed believe that automation to alleviate the burden of time-intensive processes would be beneficial.
What constitutes an ‘administrative task’?
Administrative tasks can vary based on the facility and unit, but some examples of administrative duties nurses are often responsible for include:
Charting and documentation
Prescription refill requests
Checking inventory and restocking supplies
Equipment troubleshooting and maintenance
Precepting new hires and/or students
While AI cannot realistically handle all of these tasks, it definitely seems feasible to automate or reassign many of the administrative duties nurses are responsible for on a daily basis.
Barriers to AI implementation
As is the case with any new process, there will be barriers to overcome with implementation. The three main barriers Accenture identified to implementing AI-based health tools were:
1. Technology Barriers
Technology-related barriers, including duplicative tasks and patient data security, are important considerations. Including clinicians in vendor selection and product selection/design can help ensure that the tools chosen meet the nurses’ needs.
2. Experience Barriers
AI-based tools should ideally be easy-to-use, intuitive, and integrate seamlessly into the nurses’ workflows. Essentially, the overall experience should make nurses’ jobs easier, not harder.
3. Financial Barriers
Healthcare organizations must be willing to invest in new technology and processes. However, the financial strain some organizations are under makes it difficult for them to make investing in a new technology a priority, even though it could fiscally benefit them in the long-term.
How continuous reinvention could solve the nursing shortage
In their report, Accenture identified four critical success factors to help accelerate healthcare reinvention, which in turn could have a direct impact on the nursing shortage:
1. Adopt a strong, modern digital core
In order for AI solutions to be successful, healthcare organizations must have a strong technology core already in place. They must be willing to financially invest in technology solutions and recognize their value to the organization over time.
2. Involve nurses in care reinvention from the start
As nurses will be one of the primary users of any new healthcare technology, it is critical that nurses are involved in the selection and implementation process. Nurses will often resist implementation if they feel that the solution does not address their specific challenges in a useful way. Therefore, nurses should be a key part of implementation and process improvement.
3. Use data to inform investment decisions
In addition to nurse feedback, operational and population health data can help drive solutions that are cost-effective and impactful to clinical workflows. AI-enabled technology can generate insights that can improve efficiency and streamline time-consuming processes.
4. Revolutionize operating models
Implementing large-scale change isn’t easy. It requires boundless cooperation among many different people in order to be successfully executed. Responsibility for the implementation of new technology will need to extend across various stakeholders in multiple departments in order to unlock the true value of process reinvention.
Technology alone cannot solve the nursing shortage, but it has the potential to solve many of the workflow issues nurses face on a daily basis. If implemented properly, AI tools could automate time-consuming nursing responsibilities, allowing nurses to spend less time dealing with convoluted administrative tasks and more time providing direct patient care.