Blue Prism Digital Robots help clear NHS cancer backlog

Blue Prism, a global leader in intelligent automation, has announced a successful collaboration with NHS Trusts to apply intelligent automation to help the organisation reduce its cancer care backlog.

The backlog occurred as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, as the shift in focus away from cancer patients towards critical Coronavirus cases slowed cancer diagnosis and treatment of cancer across the UK, creating a backlog that may otherwise take decades to mitigate.

According to Cancer Research UK, 367,000 new cancer cases occur in the UK every year. Addressing issues related to the pandemic in 2020 at the height of the crisis meant that routine screenings, urgent referrals and treatments were delayed, leading to a backlog of patients requiring care. As a result, urgent cancer referrals are down 60% since the pandemic started, Cancer Research says.

Cancer Research UK

In close partnership with NHS Trusts, Blue Prism is implementing digital robots and innovative solutions for better cancer treatment. The NHS will be utilising AI to more efficiently manage data and audit key milestones within the various cancer pathways, which should lead to better outcomes for patients.

Blue Prism describes itself as a global leader in intelligent automation for the enterprise, and the platform of choice for the NHS, supporting more than half of all Acute Trusts in the UK. It has users in over 170 countries and in more than 2,000 businesses, including Global 2000 and public sector organisations, that are creating value with new ways of working, unlocking efficiencies, and returning millions of hours of work back into their businesses.

According to Blue Prism, a digital workforce is the unifying agent that can help to deliver these outcomes. Blue Prism’s scalable pool of AI-powered digital robots is designed to easily interoperate with all Electronic Patient Record systems and Cancer Registers. This integration supports 24/7 productivity at robot speed, the company says.

Blue Prism’s digital robots significantly reduce the time between test results and actions by connecting the disparate systems. This involves tracking instant diagnostic results with specific hospital departments to cut waiting times or utilising machine learning and AI capabilities to review MRI scans faster.

Before the pandemic, patients showing any potentially cancerous symptoms were targeted for a specialist consultation within two weeks of an urgent general practitioner referral. Typically, a diagnosis treatment would begin within 62 days from the original referral. But in the current climate, these cancer pathways, designed to catch the disease early before it advances, have been severely challenged.

At a glance, NHS Trusts is leveraging Blue Prism’s technology in the following ways:

  • Expediting referral pathways to ensure that cases are seen as quickly as possible – potentially cutting days off the initial referral time.
  • Auditing referral pathways to ensure key milestones in treatment are met.
  • Evaluating risk by monitoring results and diagnostics to progress patients onto the next treatment milestone as effectively as possible.
  • Validating data on waiting lists and knowing who to prioritize.

Sheron Robson, Programme Manager at the Northern Cancer Alliance, commented: “As services work through the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, the NHS faces a backlog of cancer care that will impact on the national and local ambitions of earlier diagnosis and improved outcomes. By leveraging a digital workforce where every day matters on a cancer pathway, Trusts can not only improve productivity by releasing thousands of hours of manual processing but can support earlier diagnosis and mitigate clinical risk.”

Patrick Shephard, head of public sector at Blue Prism, added: “We’re proud to partner with NHS Trusts on this critical task of eliminating the Cancer backlog in the UK. With a digital workforce, healthcare providers are not only speeding up cancer diagnostics, but improving accuracy and creating new opportunities for clinicians to deliver even higher levels of care. We look forward to continuing to tackle this crucial issue while showcasing the best that a digital workforce paired with human collaboration has to offer.”

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