Client story

Automating Covid-19 processes

Kettering hospital automates Covid-19 related processes releasing staff time back to patient care

As the Covid-19 pandemic on hospitals started to materialise, Foundry4 was commissioned by the NHSx AI Lab Skunkworks project to undertake a discovery to determine the suitability of Intelligent Automation (IA) within NHS hospitals and Trusts across England.

When we approached Kettering General Hospital to share with them the benefits of automation and the funding available through Skunkworks to help NHS Trusts trial Intelligent Automation, their Deputy Chief Digital Information Officer immediately recognised the opportunity for this innovative approach in dealing with the reporting of Covid-19.

Each hospital has to create a daily Covid Situational Report. A process which is a requirement of ‘Covid times’ and an addition to the existing tasks already being processed and one that spans multiple departments across the hospital. It was quickly agreed that it would be an ideal process to automate because of the importance of the report, the need for zero errors and the time intensive nature of it.

The process used and accessed systems across three main areas - Human Resources, the Incident room and data from patient admin systems.

In terms of the first phase in HR, the bot accesses the HR system, Health Roster, reporting on the staff absence records across the hospital related and unrelated to COVID-19. The Blue Prism Cloud bot - we call her Mary Bot - extracts the information from the Health Roster and populates the NHS Digital daily SitRep template, emailing the completed template to the Health Intelligence team for checking and submitting to NHS England at 11am each day which contributes to the national Covid-19 data collection.

The second & third phase were automating the processes associated with COVID-19 patient data from multiple wards via the Incident room and our patient admin systems. Again validating the necessary information, populating the SitRep template and alerting a member of the Health Intelligence team to verify and upload to the NHS England portal. Commenting on the project so far, Ian Roddis, Deputy Chief Digital Information Officer at Kettering Hospital Trust said

“We’re really excited to be able to introduce robotic process automation through the NHSx AI Lab Skunkworks project. We’ve been really impressed with Foundry4 who built the automation in 9 weeks - pretty impressive for a first build in the hospital. This type of technology is going to revolutionise the way in which technology supports both the administration and the clinical delivery in local hospital Trusts"

The below video was recorded just before human+ became part of Foundry4.

The savings:

One of the measures used in any RPA work is ‘staff time saving’ - in part to help relative judgement of which processes should be automated, and in part to support any investment case. The estimate for the ‘staff time saving’ for the hospital once the full automation project is complete will be 4400 hours saved across all processes per annum and a staffing cost equivalent savings of £153,846.00 over one year. In practice these are not ‘cash releasing’ benefits, but demonstrate the size of the activity on what is an already stretched staff base, and give a sense of the amount of time staff will be able to spend on other tasks as Mary Bot goes about her business!

When asked about what it’s been like working with Kettering, Foundry4's Managing Director of Automation, David Biden had this to say;

“Being able to play a part in removing some of the burden of Covid-19 was a great feeling for all of the team that was involved in the build. This coupled with the clear vision that Ian Roddis has for Intelligent Automation within the hospital, means it’s been a great project to work on. We’re excited for our future partnership and demonstrating to other Trusts what can be achieved through Intelligent Automation”

Use across other Trusts

The plan is to use the processes built here and make them available via the Blue Prism NHS Digital Exchange enabling other Trusts to follow in the innovation at Kettering and benefit from the automation.

As Dr Indra Joshi, Director of AI, NHSX comments below, it's great to see the roadmap for RPA come into fruition:

"Robotic Process Automation (RPA) has the potential to help the health and care system free up administrative and clinical time, and improve the quality of data whilst delivering efficiencies. This project, enabled by the NHS AI Lab, has demonstrated just what is possible through the use of this technology and NHSX is currently developing an exciting roadmap for RPA across Health and Social Care to ensure all parts of the system can benefit"

The sentiment is echoed by Patrick Shephard, Head of Healthcare at Blue Prism Cloud

"We are incredibly excited to have Kettering join the growing list of organisations leveraging the NHS Digital Exchange: a vibrant, internal marketplace where Trusts can collaborate to streamline and optimise the most critical processes within the NHS"

Next steps

Following the success of the Proof of Concept, Kettering General Hospital has gone on to invest in five digital workers on the Blue Prism Cloud platform. Foundry4 will design, build and deploy the selected 5 processes and provide ongoing support over the next two years.

  • P1: Register Patient and Admit to ED on Medway PAS
  • P2: Patient Call Reminder - outpatient appointments
  • P3: Antibody Testing
  • P4: Managing COVID Pathology Results
  • P5: Clinical Coding

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