Automation of the mother and baby registration process at Croyden University Hospital could lead to reductions in appointment delays and associated clinical risks according to results from a recent proof of concept research project.

In response to the Government’s interoperability agenda, Croyden Health Services NHS Trust together with health IT consultancy Cloud21, has undertaken an assessment of UiPath’s process automation technology to see if it can improve interoperability between systems where direct data transfer interface is not possible.

Peter Norris, Head of Integration at Croydon University Hospital, part of the Croydon Health Services NHS Trust, initiated a proof of concept project with Cloud21 to assess how effective process automation technology would be in processing the details of new births into the relevant systems to support both acute and community interactions with mother and baby.

Norris explains, “The Child Health Services team have a responsibility to ensure all new mothers and their babies are seen by a member of the team within 24-48 hours of the birth. In order to allocate a care-worker to a patient, the mother and baby must be registered on the Patient Administration System (PAS). The importance that this first stage happens on-time cannot be understated. Failure to do so will result in delayed appointments, exposing mother and baby to possible clinical risk.”

The testing found that the automated process undertook data evaluation and subsequent input at least 6 times faster than a human worker can per item.

It takes the team on average 10 minutes to process one row of data, and due to the Monday to Friday work schedule, means a much larger task on a Monday morning to catch up with the weekend births. When automated, a single work-item takes approximately two minutes to complete.

Norris said, “As soon as development started, our automation solution rapidly took shape. Cloud 21 delivered a robust and reliable automation of a vital workflow, ensuring that all new mothers and their babies will get the important follow-up appointments within the required timeframe. Additionally, the robots’ accuracy with speed of throughput will prove invaluable in many other key areas in our organisation.”

Currently, this process is supported by the small number of team members within the Child Health services which poses risks and challenges. The working patterns of the team are such that there’s limited time available to complete these tasks.

Norris said, “Even with the best of intentions, unforeseen factors such as illness, or staff unable to get to work for any reason (both of which could potentially affect one or all members of the admin team), processing the registrations and referrals can be impacted. Whilst the registration process is rules-based and methodical, it is also complex. Getting supply-staff to quickly understand it and complete the workload on-time and accurately would not be viable.”

Norris and Cloud21 worked jointly to train UiPath’s process automation solution to undertake all steps in the current process, allowing all appropriate records in the supplied spreadsheets to generate the appropriate tasks within the PAS.

Michael Beckett, managing director, Cloud21 said, “Researchers at Imperial College released a report last year that stated NHS trust’s are using at least 21 different electronic medical records systems which are unable to effectively share information. This means that the transfer of data from one system to another still heavily relies on manual processes. And whilst progress is being made with standards such as FHIR to help solve this challenge, direct data transfers may not always be possible, as with the case at Croyden. We have been watching the development of process automation technologies closely, following its growth in banking. If we are to meet the interoperability goals then we should also be considering the role that this technology can play. The results achieved at Croyden are very promising and I’d encourage all NHS trusts to take note.”

Norris concluded, “As we continue to look for ways of increasing efficiency without detriment to services, process automation has clearly demonstrated itself as the way forward and shown us a world of possibilities. This is certainly an exciting time for us.”