Robotics and automation bring benefits for patient care at Blackpool Teaching Hospitals

Blackpool Teaching Hospitals has introduced a state-of-the-art IT tool to help colleagues spend less time on administration tasks and more time with patients.

The Robotic Process Automation Tool (RPA) has been introduced by the Trust’s ICT team for a range of projects.

The tool can be used to automate repetitive processes – examples include back office and administration tasks such as processing invoices or booking appointments.

The Trust’s Radiology department was one of the first to use the system, after approaching the ICT team with the challenge of streamlining its appointments processing.

Now, when a message goes out to a patient by the normal process, once a response is received the RPA system takes over. The system can deal with cancellations, confirmations or send on a rebooking request or other query to staff.

This has reduced the need for staff to login to the message reminding system and the system is reported to have handled more than 5,500 appointments to date, meaning a significant amount of clinical time has been handed back to staff.

Joanne Millar, the Trust’s lead for robotic automation and integrated development, said: “The system was originally piloted by the Trust to look at processing invoices for the finance team, and the first process actually went live last year related to our COVID testing booking system.

“We’re also working with teams across the Trust including IT, Sexual Health Services, HR and A&E, as well as supporting training and appraisal systems.

“This process gives a real opportunity for us to help with our clinical and elective restoration programmes and take over some of the traditional ‘back-office’ functions in order to hand back clinical time to colleagues who can then spend more time with our patients.”

Michelle Ball, Radiology Admin Manager, added: “The project has been very successful for us in Radiology, it has been a real boost to the department.

“It has taken over from the booking and reception staff doing this role and it assists them to ensure the task is completed on time, efficiently and has reduced the chance of error. It deals with all confirmed and cancelled appointments within Envoy Messenger and transferring the data to the Radiology Information System (Agfa HealthCare Scheduling).

“This job used to take up a lot of time for our staff but now they can continue to enter referrals, book appointments and receive patients without the worry of having to complete this.”

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