Majority of NHS Trusts still rely on paper records – but half are looking to AI, research shows

Written by Rebecca Hill on 2 February 2017 in News

Research has revealed a continued reliance on hand-written records at NHS Trusts, although almost half say they are investing in artificial intelligence technologies.

More than 90% of surveyed trusts say they still rely on hand-written reports - Photo credit: Flickr, ad.mak, CC BY 2.0

According to figures released following a Freedom of Information request by the communications solutions company Nuance, 93% of the 30 trusts that responded said they handwrite reports.

The same proportion said they relied on traditional word processing methods to type up electronic patient records.

However, the FoI also indicated an increasing interest in AI across the NHS, with 43% of trusts reporting that they were considering how to use AI as a way of allowing patients to “self-help” when accessing health services.

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In a statement published alongside the FoI responses, Nuance said that such technology included virtual assistants, speech recognition technology and chat-bots.

Last year, Enfield Council became one of the first local authorities to use AI assistance, with the introduction of IPSoft’s Amelia systems to help residents carry out online tasks.

At the time, the council said that this would allow residents to access services 24 hours a day and reduce pressure on staff.

In today’s release, Nuance also noted the potential for this to reduce pressure on staff working in the NHS, pointing to its previous research that 90% of GP practices found their patient documentation systems “burdensome”.

The FoI request also showed that 60% of NHS trusts surveyed said their staff had access to speech recognition technologies to create patient reports and diagnostics reports, which Nuance said would speed up processing of documents.

Nuance’s chief medical officer Frederik Brabant said: “Deploying technology such as AI to enable patients to self-help is an important step forward to providing the best possible care – ensuring employees can manage the more complex ailments directly with patients, while giving easy access to information for everyone.”

Last month, the government responded to a report on the potential benefits and risks of AI use from the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, saying that “more could be done” to support the development of the technology.

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