Unlocking the benefits of Intelligent Automation in the NHS

NHS - Kettering General Hospital

Challenge

Managing patient processes such as GP referrals and appointment bookings places a significant administrative burden on NHS hospitals, who must ensure that appointments are made as appropriate and patient records are up to date and dealt with correctly.

Doing this manually is extremely time-consuming, and backlogs or processing delays often occur, ultimately impacting patient experience. By implementing Intelligent Automation technology, hospitals can manage processes much more efficiently. There’s also the opportunity to share the learnings and systems developed in one hospital to others using automation software. This helps to maximise efficiency and cost savings for the wider NHS.

Approach

We partnered with Kettering General Hospital to help them benefit from intelligent automation technology. Following a successful proof of value project automating their Covid-19 Situational Report, we identified two further high-volume, repetitive processes that were ideally suited for automation:

  • ‘Unappointed patients’ process – where outpatient referrals that are no longer relevant for legitimate health reasons are removed from the system;
  •  GP referrals – where hospital appointments are booked for patients at the request of primary care services.

The ‘unappointed patients’ process had a big impact on staff time, with a year-long backlog due to Covid-19. This prevented staff from focusing on other work and was a drain on the team’s morale.

We built an intelligent automation bot to automate the old process and clear the backlog of outpatient referrals that needed removing from the hospital’s system. Instead of requiring a human employee to delete each entry individually, the bot opens an Excel spreadsheet of the referrals, accesses the corresponding records on the patient administration system, and automatically discharges them.

The human factor in this work was perhaps even more important here, as the repetitive nature of these tasks were severely demotivating staff. By using intelligent automation to solve this problem, the hospital was able to free up staff time and ensure they could carry out more value-adding work.

We also automated Kettering Hospital’s GP referral process. When a GP creates a referral for their patient, it enters the e-RS system. Before automation, a staff member had to access this system, read any comments on the record, and book an appointment for the patient at the hospital.

With intelligent automation, the bot automatically books appointments. Importantly, it filters records with complicated comments, passing them on to a person for approval to ensure that each patient’s precise needs are met.

“I’m proud of what we achieved with the project, it has made life easier for my colleagues”

Amanda Thomson, RTT Data Quality & Training Lead, Kettering General Hospital

Impact

With Kettering General Hospital working as a group with Northampton General Hospital, this automation work adds to the centre of excellence being developed in Northamptonshire to help scale automation technology across the NHS to deliver greater impact.