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Strategies are now being written to support the recovery phase of COVID-19. And not just the recovery phase but for the new normal.

Current conversations indicate that people are starting to use technology in a different way and with a growing awareness of software automation, trusts are now investigating what this technology can do for them during this time.

Here are two areas you could consider using software bots to support your trust during recovery:

Managing the re-booking of outpatient appointments

In line with national guidance from NHS England and NHS Improvement, trusts activated their emergency preparedness and resilience procedure in response to the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) outbreak.

The first priorities were to free up hospital beds for the increase in patients presenting with severe respiratory problems. This meant that they began to postpone or cancel some planned, non-urgent and elective operations, and as we transition into recovery and a new norm, all these activities need rescheduling.

The process of booking appointments is based on logic which means it is a good fit for automation. When processes are based on rules and logic it means you can train the software bots to learn these rule-based steps and automatically follow these steps repeatedly – 24/7 with 100% accuracy. And for processing large volumes of work, such as in the case of re-booking all the appointments that had to be cancelled, it can save teams a lot of time and effort.

How do you automate the process of booking appointments?

In the case of re-booking outpatients appointments you can train the software bots to:

  • Look at the type of clinic the patient was in.
  • Look at the last appointment date compared to the pathway they were on.
  • Look to find a suitable clinic that will allow them to be booked into.
  • And in the event the clinic is full you can create logic-based decisions for the software bot to follow that either says over book, or move them to another clinic slot. Or flag up to you that additional clinic slots are required for you to review.
  • In conjunction with this work, the software bots have also been working through the RTT pathways, providing additional intelligence to the process of allocating appointments appropriately.
  • Integrating with the eRS

    One client we work with noticed an increase in requests for additional staffing to support the preparation of referral documentation for clinics. When reviewing the staffing levels and impact of delays in the retrieval of the information he thought there’s a lot of people who are being employed here to fulfil this task and they’re good people who could be better used elsewhere.

    So is this a role for software robots to save hiring people to carry out what is essentially a very mundane task? (And arguably shouldn’t even be a task because there should be better integration capabilities in the eRS – but that’s another article!).

    The admin required to help prepare information for clinics may be a process you are very familiar with. For those who aren’t, when referring patients to treatment the GP (or the referring organisation) will supply a series of documents to support the referral. And this supporting information could contain care plan statements, letters to the patient or other treatments. However, across the system this information is uploaded to the eRS differently. For example, one practice may upload one document that’s five pages whereas another practice may upload five separate pages.

    This creates additional work for the trust teams to review the information and collate it ready for the clinics so the consultant doesn’t spend the first ten minutes of the clinic sifting through the referral notes to find the relevant information.

    Where can automation technology help?

    If patient intake is increasing and subsequently you are seeing requests for additional staffing then it may be time to consider software robots. Consider these questions:

  • Can we use software robots to download the documents to save a team doing this? Yes
  • Can we then expand the use of software robots to figure out which page belongs to which document? Yes
  • Then can we go even further than that and train the software bots to understand what’s on these pages so that the pages can be prioritised in order of relevance for the clinician. Yes
  • Automating this process can save your team a lot of time and better use their skill sets in other areas of the organisation.

    There are many more areas that are suitable for software automation and once your infrastructure is in place you can scale it very rapidly. And from a security perspective, an on–premise installation ensures no information is leaving the hospital environment.

    If you are considering automation to support your recovery but have questions about the technology or the use cases please don’t hesitate to get in contact with us to talk through your thoughts.

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