As the world’s population ages, healthcare is rising in demand as well as standards. Innovative ideas are necessary to meet the need for increased manpower and resources without compromising standards of care.

Uber-like service frees up beds and provides mobility to patients

With the NHS facing the current bed shortage issue, a start-up company has initiated plans for a collaborative effort with major medical institutions in the UK.

The social care start-up, Cera, provides a selection of trained carers that doctors in London can prescribe to assist their patients at home instead of having them remain in the hospital. This would be able to free up more hospital beds for those in urgent need while helping doctors ensure their patients receive timely care at home.

“There are numerous patients across the country in a hospital bed when they could be discharged to be at home where they are comfortable,” said Ben Maruthappu, a former doctor who is the co-founder and chief executive of Cera.

“Bed-blocking costs the NHS £1 billion a year and has risen 42% compared with last year,” he added.

The service not only matches carers with patients who require assistance, it provides also trained assistance in the hospital or at home within 24 hours. This would enable more patients to leave the house and remain independent.

The company is also independently working with Uber to provide transport for carers and patients, including to and from hospitals.

Uber will provide a service called UberWAV which allows for booking of fully wheelchair-accessible cars, while UberASSIST service takes into account passengers who require mobility aids, with its drivers who are trained to help disabled passengers and seniors during their journeys.

This service will be released in London, with no plans to offer the service in other cities or countries announced.

Chatbot service to support follow-up on patients

Medical service does not end after the patient is discharged from the hospital. Often, follow-up is required to make sure that the patient is following the treatment plan correctly and following the doctor’s directives. Hospitals achieve better patient adherence and lower readmission rates if healthcare professionals remain in contact with the patient. However, this is not feasible given the finite number of healthcare professionals.

A chatbot - a computer programme designed to simulate human conversation – may be the answer to this conundrum. Available to patients 24/7, they are able to offer all sorts of health support to patients, ranging from guidance on procedures to seek treatment to delivering test results.

The importance of timely advice is especially high in the field of healthcare, and this is where such “health assistant bots” come in. With machine-learning capabilities, they are able to consider input from patients, assess the seriousness of their symptoms, and deliver personalised advice on the appropriate action.

Doctors can keep track of patients with chatbot service

The chatbots may engage with patients through voice recognition, and their role may extend to replace some of the services of conventional home caregivers. Known as “post-discharge chatbots”, they can be programmed to give reminders for medications and appointments, and provide personalised care plans with input from physicians.

Doctors may also benefit from chatbots by obtaining information on their patients’ health condition, including recent symptoms and treatments, diagnosis and test results, as well as the patient’s current medication. This could potentially facilitate more productive patient consultations through quicker and more accurate responses.

If designed appropriately, chatbots can be easy to use and highly engaging for the patient. Nevertheless, development is not a straightforward issue, as the bot has to be tailored to the specific healthcare system used.

Innovative solutions are needed to save the overburdened healthcare system, and fortunately, there has always been a constant drive for development of improved services. MIMS

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