Te Whatu Ora’s 2023/2024 workforce plan reported about 8000 vacancies within the New Zealand health system, and based on current population growth this gap could grow to 25,000 healthcare professionals.
AI has surfaced as a promising tool that holds the capacity to transform the healthcare industry.
It could help enhance efficiency in healthcare by streamlining processes, optimizing resource allocation, and facilitating more effective staff utilization.
In addition to efficiency improvements, AI can contribute to improved diagnostics, personalized treatment plans, and timely interventions, thereby advancing patient outcomes and overall healthcare quality.
Not All Overseas AI Tools Are Compliant
First and foremost, healthcare providers need to ensure new AI tools and technologies align with both ethical principles and local regulatory standards.
As AI continues to evolve and gain widespread acceptance, the importance of ensuring compliance with local laws and regulations cannot be overstated.
Some AI-powered tools have already been approved by Te Whatu Ora and are actively utilized in all DHBs. For example, Microsoft’s Dragon Medical One by Nuance is a high-calibre Ai-powered speech-to-text software and medical documentation solution. It empowers doctors to create comprehensive clinical documentation more efficiently using just their voice, achieving around 130 words/min vs.40 words/min typing.
Dragon Medical One lets clinicians dictate directly into their application of choice and is compatible with all major EMRs, including MEDTECH, Incisive and My Practice.
additional features like predefined text, automatic formatting and intuitive voice commands help save even more time. The software comes with a dedicated medical dictionary which is customised to the clinician’s subspecialty.
Each user has their own personal profile and can train it further via corrections and by adding their own words and phrases to the custom vocabulary.
Thanks to its automatic accent detection and AI-powered speech recognition, Dragon Medical One delivers unparalleled accuracy, offering an optimal user experience right from the start.
Clinicians Released up to 30 Extra Hours of Clinical Care per Week
Mackay Hospital in Queensland ran a very successful pilot program with Dragon.
“The pilot program showed results almost immediately.” Chief digital director for medical services at Mackay HHS Pieter Nel said. Participants dictated on average three times faster than their typing speed and released between one and 30 (!) extra hours of clinical care per week. Turnaround time for GP and specialist letters was reduced from 30 days to 1 day.
“We calculated that over three months using Dragon Medical One … we had a saving of 140 hours of work”Pieter Nel, Chief digital director for medical services at Mackay HHS
Dr Nel said: “We calculated that over three months using Dragon Medical One across the hospital, we had a saving of 140 hours of work. In dollars, conservative wages, we did save about $87,000 in that three months between the 25 licenses.”
Mackay Hospital is now rolling Dragon Medical One out to the rest of the hospital, with 400 licenses across the service.
In conclusion, existing and approved AI tools, such as Microsoft’s Dragon Medical One, stand as valuable assets in bridging the gap and navigating New Zealand’s healthcare workforce crisis.
We indeed require more doctors and medical staff, urging the government to swiftly identify and implement solutions for this healthcare staff shortage crisis. But technologies can play a pivotal role in streamlining processes and maximizing the efficiency of existing staff, offering a promising solution to the challenges posed by workforce shortages.
As the country looks to the future of healthcare, leveraging AI tools represents a strategic move towards a more resilient and effective healthcare system.