The changing reality of life and healthcare.
The COVID pandemic has changed nearly every area of our lives, from how we work to how we shop, consume information, products, and services, and engage with others. The last two years have put significant strain on global economies and upended business models that have defined whole industries for the previous decade.
The pandemic has also posed enormous difficulties to healthcare systems around the world, leaving them scrambling to keep up with rapidly rising expenses and increased demand for better, more modern, and conveniently available healthcare solutions. COVID-19, in fact, has been a driving force in the adoption of digital healthcare. According to a Deloitte research, about 65% of EU healthcare professionals claim their practices have expanded their use of digital technologies to enhance providers' safe working practices. Like many other sectors before it, healthcare is feeling the burden of transitioning to a more consumer-driven economy, as patients are better informed and more connected than ever before.
This new continuous demand for modern healthcare solutions has facilitated the rapid growth of conversational AI usage. Conversational AI is being used to help healthcare providers become more consumer-friendly while also improving their processes and optimizing their business and financial KPIs.
After the onset of the pandemic, the remaining months until the end of 2020 were defined by high uncertainty about the future, with governments, companies, and individuals alike struggling to plan more than a few weeks in advance. The fast development of vaccines and the launch of global accelerated immunization programs increased optimism in a favorable resolution of the issue, sparking economic recovery and unleashing pent-up demand. The effects of 2020 on the general psyche, on the other hand, caused vaccine apprehension in some parts of the world's population, continuing to raise question marks related to ensuring safe interactions.
The hospital was one of these organizations in the United States that took the initiative in August 2021 to demand its personnel to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Its goal was to maintain operational capability while preserving the health of both its team members and patients, especially in the context of a fresh wave of COVID cases. With over 13,000 members to check, the hospital was searching for a solution that would allow it to verify the information in a timely manner while putting the least amount of strain on its personnel, allowing them to focus on the crucial work of caring for patients and saving lives.
Many hospitals and health systems have begun to use digital technologies to improve various functional areas over the last two decades. The epidemic has increased the rate of digital transformation and highlighted the practically limitless potential of emerging technologies, like Artificial Intelligence, to impact operational capabilities and corporate efficiency positively.
The hospital knew it needed to set up a process to ensure that checks were made without errors and with as little disruption and hassle for staff as possible when it decided to introduce mandatory vaccination and a two-month deadline for staff to demonstrate that they had received their full COVID-19 vaccination scheme. It had the additional experience of previously checking flu vaccination status during a particularly terrible flu season when the operation required the hiring of 100 extra workers.
This time around, the hospital decided on a different approach and called on DRUID to co-create a customized intelligent virtual assistant that could take over the procedure from start to finish. Once operational and integrated into the hospital's system, the conversational AI virtual assistant allowed workers to access it at any time, in both English or Spanish versions.
Staff would then be sent to a form where they could submit a copy of their immunization card via the virtual assistant. The latter would then extract the relevant information and compare it with the hospital's employee database to update the vaccination status of the specific employee using UiPath's OCR capabilities.
Employees could also use the DRUID virtual assistant to apply for a mandate exemption. In this example, the AI-enabled solution would communicate the person's information to a secondary chatbot, keeping track of the employee and providing weekly reminders to submit COVID tests. The installation of the AI virtual assistant boosted process efficiency and guaranteed that all worker statuses were handled before the early October deadline. At the same time, the hospital's human resources dedicated to ensuring the verification were reduced by a factor of 25. Whereas the previous flu vaccine check had required a team of 100 people, thanks to DRUID, only four people were now able to fully complete the task, intervening in cases where, for example, employee data inscribed on the vaccination card did not match the one on vaccination cards.
Many businesses, including hospitals, are interested in digital transformation - the use of digital technology to build or improve company processes, culture, and customer experiences - to expand operations and stay ahead of the competition.
When people think of digital transformation in healthcare, they think of improving patient outcomes and experiences, especially as the deployment of conversational technology in healthcare is rising due to changing customer expectations and the need for enhanced engagement and usability.
Nonetheless, digital transformation has a similarly significant role in increasing hospital operational efficiency and employee experience. Before the COVID-19 outbreak, just 24% of employers considered employee engagement a significant priority. Nowadays, this figure has grown to about 36%. Engaging and communicating with employees effectively leads to improved satisfaction, retention, and productivity.
In this context, the global healthcare virtual assistant market, targeting better patient and employee experiences, is expected to reach $703.2 million by 2025. AI spending in the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries is expected to similarly increase from $463 million in 2019 to more than $2 billion over the next five years.