As we look back on 2023, we are reflecting on the topics that have been front of mind for every healthcare professional. For many, 2023 was another year of intense pressure, limited resources, and searching for ways to work more efficiently and improve the patient journey.
Throughout the year, we have considered many of the most significant, complex issues facing the NHS today. From Delayed Transfers of Care to understanding the real cost—and value—of new technology, we have discussed how AI-powered speech recognition can dramatically improve workloads and, ultimately, patient outcomes.
But how much has changed since we first discussed these important topics? And how can speech continue to deliver measurable value to healthcare professionals across every discipline and specialism?
The continued pressure of bed shortages
Back in January 2023, we wrote about the relationship between dwindling bed stocks, high occupancy rates, and Delayed Transfers of Care. Initiatives like the Urgent and Emergency Care Plan laid the foundation for improvement over time, but almost 12 months later, the number of available beds across the NHS remains low.
In December 2023, the NHS Confederation was reportedly ‘worried’ about the continued lack of beds, particularly in Yorkshire and north-east England. With occupancy hitting heights of 95%, Trusts are left exposed to surging flu rates and seasonal illnesses. At the same time, high occupancy also drives infection risk, potentially worsening an already fraught situation.
Speech recognition solutions like Augnito Spectra have a role to play in accelerating safe discharge by reducing internal delays. When clinical workfllows and reporting are fast, flexible and accurate, patients can be safely transferred outside of the NHS, freeing up vital bed space for someone else.
A national emergency for mental healthcare
We also discussed the current state of mental health services in the UK, describing a flashpoint where the available resources need to be rapidly expanded to keep up with surging demand. Sadly, more recent news articles suggest a system that’s perpetually struggling to keep up.
According to The Guardian, the NHS Confederation described mental healthcare in England as a ‘national emergency’ in October 2023. Many NHS leaders observe that mental health has ‘slipped down the government’s set of priorities’, with patients suffering as a result. The situation is similar across the wider UK—in Scotland’s December 2023 budget, mental health funding was cut by almost £30 million.
For mental health professionals (MHPs), new ways of working can enable manual tasks to be completed faster and more flexibly. Crucially, a speech recognition platform, like Augnito, enables MHPs to capture notes in a way that’s natural and intuitive, so more attention can be paid to important patient interactions and those personal, often difficult and emotional conversations.
The continued evolution of patient data
Finally, we looked at patient data in its various formats across 2023. We discussed the importance of interoperability, sharing patient data securely to enable collaboration across multi-disciplinary teams (MDTs). We also tracked the evolution of patient data, including the changing nature of patient records and the heightened importance of accuracy and clarity.
Despite some controversy around privacy, 2024 will undoubtedly see new changes in the way patient data is stored, captured, shared and processed.
Augnito Voice Services and Augnito Spectra will continue to deliver wide-reaching benefits across healthcare with 99.3% accurate, AI-powered transcription that’s available anywhere, on any device. Our aim in 2024 will focus even more on how Augnito modernises the way healthcare professionals report, so, in turn, patient journeys and experiences can be modernised too. All in a single cloud-hosted platform that can be integrated into your EPR system for secure sharing.
Increasingly, patient journeys are becoming digital journeys—and the quality of the data you hold is key.
Learn more about Augnito
See how Augnito Spectra delivers measurable benefits now while future-proofing the way you capture patient data. Request a demo or try Augnito Spectra for 7 days and see the benefits for yourself.
Any discussion of healthcare is tied to the seemingly perennial discussion of waiting lists. Patients are waiting longer than they should have to for the treatment they need – and this is nothing new. What’s different, particularly in mental health services and integrated/community care, is the scale and severity of the problem.
NHS England currently publishes waiting time data for talking therapies, young people with an eating disorder, and early intervention in psychosis. Waiting lists across all these areas continue to grow. However, the real scale of the issue is likely to be under-reported. So-called hidden waiting lists between referral and second appointment cause around 12% of mental health cases to wait longer than six months. Demand outpaces the resources available – and adding more resources in terms of people, expertise, and technology will be a long, arduous process.
The answer isn’t in waiting for the resources to come, or leaving already strained emergency services to pick up the slack. There’s a driving, urgent need for efficiency – and doing more with the resources that are at hand and already available.
The importance of efficiency and technology adoption
The reality of mental health means that comprehensive notes are key to good patient outcomes. Cases are often complex and accurate information needs to be shared across mental health professionals (MHPs) and integrated/community care providers. When it comes to detailed reporting, more is always more.
However, this reporting burden is a significant drain on resources – namely, the people who are doing the reporting. Transforming the way mental health services are provided – and the experience of patients – is only possible when these day-to-day processes are faster and more flexible, without compromising on accuracy or completeness.
Technology has a role to play. A more digital approach to reporting helps to keep records safe, while potentially streamlining how MHPs work and increasing their agility.
Similar approaches have already been taken in areas like access to primary care, with mixed success. While patient access can be improved through initiatives like digital phone systems, online messaging and modern triage, the reality rarely meets the potential. An NHSE survey, reported by the Health Service Journal, estimates that just 10-15% of GP practices are using all three access tools.
Even where the most appropriate technology has been identified and recommended by NHS England, there is a significant gap in adoption.
Taking an MHP-centric approach to change
Conventionally, new technology in healthcare (in the form of computer hardware, digitalization, IT systems, cloud-computing, patient data reporting and recording, PACS, clinical software applications, and artificial intelligence) has been driven from the top down. NHS Trusts, private hospitals and healthcare service leaders select and deploy what they hope users will adopt fully. The problem is that the real needs of users – in this case, mental health professionals (MHPs) – are a secondary consideration.
We believe a more effective approach is one where a chosen tech solution mirrors and supports the way users/people want to work, rather than asking them to adapt to the way solutions work. This is only possible when you take into account the diverse needs, preferences and reporting processes of those individuals, providing adequate training and support. Automating certain tasks is another powerful way to support those efficiency gains. And setting clear expectations can help to avoid an overwhelming amount of change. Beyond choosing technology that’s fit for purpose, considering all these factors ensures change is and smooth and successful.
Speech recognition is a technology designed to feel natural and easy to use. By definition, it is more intuitive than any manual input could ever be. As a result, speech recognition can play a vital role in driving the adoption of a vast range of new patient data-focussed technology, including PAS, HIS and EPR systems.
When patient data is manually transcribed from one system to another, or from hurried notes into a more structured digital format, the workload of mental health professionals is increased, not improved. At the same time, these manual processes increase the risk of errors, inaccuracies, and privacy breaches involving mishandled or misplaced files. Efficiency is lost.
Speech is significantly faster than typing and, consequently, the biggest benefits of speech recognition are unlocked when it is integrated into the clinical systems that healthcare professionals already use.
How Augnito empowers MHPs
Augnito is a cloud-hosted, AI-enhanced clinical speech recognition solution that can be used to integrate speech and dictation into existing clinical workflows and applications. By bringing speech to critical technologies like an EPR system, Augnito removes the friction of typing and its time drain on users, helping to improve the adoption of digital workflows.
With a comprehensive set of user options including a desktop, browser and mobile app, Augnito allows for diagnostic reports and patient notes to be dictated from anywhere. Augnito is also easy to deploy and integrate – with providers being able to integrate into their clinical systems in as little as 48 hours and on average around 10-12 weeks.
Finally, Augnito provides a strong return on investment, not just with competitive licensing costs, but the innate ability to increase adoption rates for other clinical systems. In this sense, Augnito doesn’t just deliver value by making intuitive speech recognition available – it actively drives more value from under-used clinical technology that healthcare organisations already have.
In the words of Scribetech’s Director of Global Expansion “We are not adapting the way humans communicate with computers, but adapting the way computers communicate with humans.”
Learn more about Augnito
In just 24 months, Augnito speech recognition technology has helped drive EPR adoption through its growing subscription list of 13,500+ medical professionals across 355 hospitals, NHS Trusts, and 24 reseller, integration and radiology partners in UK, USA, Canada, India, the Middle East and APAC. Request a demo to try Augnito Spectra to see how it can help you.
While technology like clinical speech recognition has the potential to support vital transformation for mental health services, making any lasting change takes careful consideration. Funding is limited, mental health professionals are already stretched, and change can be an intimidating undertaking.
In our last post, we highlighted the significant benefits of natural speech recognition in a mental health setting. From reducing reporting time to freeing up mental health professionals (MHPs) to focus on patients, not note taking, speech-driven tools can positively impact the way people work − and the way patients receive care. But workflow benefits alone don’t determine the success of new technology.
As mental health teams begin their journey of digital transformation, they need to consider a wide range of factors including ease of implementation, adoption, security and, of course, cost.
Ease of implementation
The real cost of new technology is rarely the out-of-the-box price. The NHS Long Term Plan continues to influence technology across healthcare, but many Trusts and mental health professionals find themselves using a mix of modern solutions and older, often unwieldy platforms. As a result, IT infrastructure isn’t always ready to support a new solution, regardless of its potential benefits.
A cloud-hosted, AI-enhanced clinical speech recognition solution like Augnito completely removes this complexity, delivering intuitive speech-to-text with no need for a complex on-site implementation and no infrastructure change. And with purpose-built dictionaries for MHPs vs. a third party add-on, and no need for time-consuming voice-profile training, it’s ready to use at a moment’s notice.
All with flexible per-user licensing, a simple annual fee, and ongoing updates and support included.
Driving adoption of natural speech recognition
If a solution helps a single mental health professional save at least 30 minutes every day, that’s significant. If it’s adopted by an entire team, each experiencing the same kind of impact on their workflow, this could positively impact the patient journey for thousands of people every year. The quality of clinical records can also be improved by increasing use and adoption of the EPR/EMR, and allowing for more detail to be captured – we can speak three times faster than we can type.
An effective plan for adoption starts with ease of use. Flexibility and interoperability are key. Augnito is available wherever mental health professionals need it, whether that’s on Windows, MacOS, smartphones or tablets. Additionally, through Augnito’s comprehensive SDK and API tools, speech-to-text capabilities can also be easily integrated into existing reporting systems, alongside any data captured via Augnito. In this way, it’s easy to make clinical speech recognition part of an existing workflow − as opposed to expecting an already strained workforce to make radical changes to how they capture information and report.
At the same time, early adopters can help drive adoption across the wider team. Augnito is designed to enable MHPs to focus on their patients with more eye contact and more time to listen. Beyond improving the patient journey, speech recognition improves the lives of the people who care for patients every day. These first-hand benefits are vital to maximising adoption.
Embedded security and privacy
As is the case with the entire healthcare system, security and privacy are vital considerations in mental health. This is particularly complex when it comes to cloud-hosted software and the question of how and where data is shared.
Augnito is HIPAA, GDPR, SOC2, ISO 27001 and Cyber Essentials Plus compliant, with data encryption deeply embedded into its design process with regular audits and penetration tests to monitor security posture. All UK data is anonymised and processed in the UK, subject to the aforementioned security standards.
In fact, speech recognition has a significant privacy benefit over written documentation and reports. With all information captured digitally, MHPs can reduce the risk of misplaced documents and the manual handling errors that most commonly lead to a data breach.
Making a targeted investment in better workflows
In mental health, investment has to be targeted appropriately and in the right way. In the aftermath of the pandemic and amid a cost-of-living crisis, the scope, scale and nature of mental health complaints are all changing. The one constant is the hard work of MHPs − and it’s here that any investment in change must begin.
Augnito influences patient journeys and outcomes by enabling mental health professionals (MHPs) to work more accurately, flexibly, and effectively. It’s an investment that, while small on a per-user basis, could dramatically improve the outlook for mental health teams and patients − nationwide.
Learn more about Augnito
Augnito is already impacting the patient journey through a growing list of UK radiologists and medical consultants. Request a demo and try Augnito Spectra for 7 days to see how it can help you.
Much like the entire healthcare system, mental health services in the NHS and wider community are facing unprecedented pressure. Rising demand, increased awareness, and stretched budgets make diagnosing and treating mental health conditions a considerable challenge.
It’s an urgent issue that affects everyone. Last year, mental health patients in Accident & Emergency departments waited more than 5.4 million hours. Vulnerable groups like pregnant women aren’t receiving the care they need—not because of a lack of funding, but because of overwhelmed workforces and chronic understaffing. And those people who do receive treatment are significantly less likely to be satisfied with their experience than those with physical conditions.
Technology like AI and speech recognition has the potential to raise standards of mental health care. For example, recent studies show how speech recognition could be used to detect the signs of depression. However, despite recent advances in AI and natural language processing, there’s just no substitute for the distinct, empathetic role of a mental health professional (MHP).
Mental health specialists routinely go above and beyond to capture the often lengthy context around a patient’s condition. It’s a significant drain on already exhausted medical professionals and Allied Health Professionals (AHPs), not just during the day, but out of hours and during valuable home time. It’s here that technology can be most impactful, not replacing professionals, but enabling them to work more flexibly and focus on what matters most: their patients and their personal time.
A flashpoint for mental health care
The COVID-19 pandemic impacted mental health for the worse, with numerous sacrifices made to combat the virus and widespread uncertainty. Society as a whole saw a groundswell in dormant or entirely new mental health conditions. Mental health professionals were faced with even more work—only completed thanks to their commitment/passion for their work, and a great deal of time and effort.
This mental health crisis led to what former Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid described as ‘a decade of change in just two years.’ This quote from a Mental Health Summit speech reflects both the rapid increase in mental health conditions—but also a rapid shift in priorities for the government.
Unfortunately, two years of rapid change can’t undo the damage of decades of underfunding. In January 2023, the UK government pledged £150 million to support urgent mental health care, but health and care providers are already dealing with chronic understaffing. Data from Mind shows that, as far back as 2013, four in ten mental health trusts had staffing levels below benchmarks. More recent reports from the British Medical Association show that the mental health workforce has had little growth in the decade since.
While more investment in mental health provision is welcome, it must be targeted appropriately—and applied consistently. Building highly qualified capacity takes time. Improving the mental health landscape will be a long, arduous process. Those patients suffering with mental health conditions can’t wait for Trusts to find, hire, and grow their resources and human expertise.
Investing in mental health professionals (MHPs)
Investment in patient-facing services will always be vital to transformation, but there’s also a significant opportunity to invest in the capacity that’s already there. This starts with understanding and supporting the overworked mental health teams on the frontlines of the patient experience.
Reported by the CQC, 45% of patients aren’t always given enough time to discuss their needs. This reflects a department under pressure—and that’s pressure that the right technology can alleviate.
The work of mental health professionals is notoriously complex. The role is wide and varied. And professionals need to be multiskilled in providing advice and counselling, behavioural management, and developing strategies for patients to manage their thoughts and emotions. Amid these considerable demands, unwieldy software and slow reporting processes negatively affect quality of care. This is a particularly big challenge in mental health, where collaboration across practitioners is so vital. In an effort to accurately capture the insights a colleague will need, it’s all too easy to overlook the needs of patients themselves.
How Augnito empowers mental health trusts
Developed in close partnership with medical professionals, Augnito delivers integrated, flexible speech recognition—and a more efficient, agile way of working. Mental health teams can switch to using Augnito’s designated mental health vocabulary, capturing all the vital clinical data naturally, descriptively, quickly, and accurately. This frees up time to focus on patients, not admin. More importantly, it reduces reporting that encroaches on home life—often the case at the end of the day when the MHP is finished.
Crucially, Augnito was built for the fast-moving, collaborative nature of healthcare. Patient notes can be captured on any device—Windows, MacOS, smartphone, or tablet—or directly in an existing clinical system. And a focus on security means information can be safely stored, fed into other systems, or securely shared with other teams across healthcare and social care as necessary.
Available in the cloud on a simple subscription basis, Augnito offers:
- Beyond 99% accuracy
- Support for any accent out-of-the-box
- No need for time-consuming voice training
- Faster reporting with average 5% efficiency gains
AI-powered speech recognition like Augnito won’t transform mental health provision itself. But it can transform how MHP’s work every day, enabling them to care for patients with more eye contact, more time to talk and listen, applying more attention to every step along the care journey to improved mental health.
Learn more about Augnito
Augnito is already impacting the patient journey through a growing list of UK reseller and integration partners. Request a demo to try Augnito Spectra for 7 days to see how it can help you.