The challenges:

  • To get patients from referral to cancer treatment as soon as possible, within 62 days or less in line with national guidance, to improve outcomes.
  • Reducing the time patients on a cancer pathway are waiting for a diagnosis.

The technical solution:

  • Open-source RPA software called AutoHotKey, a free-of-charge Microsoft tool.
  • Initial development by computer science students on placement from local University.
  • RPA solutions, including the open-source scripting RPA program called AutoHotKey.
  • Using open-source and modular solutions, so that learnings can be freely shared across healthcare settings.

Processes automated using RPA:

  • Referrals auto-retrieved into the department from eRS
  • Securely alerting clinicians of investigation results using natural language processing
  • Booking patients into next available lung cancer clinic
  • Ordering investigations during MDT discussions; uploading data to national audit sites.

Benefits:

  • Shorten the lung cancer pathway so patients receive treatment faster, resulting in improved prognosis and potentially better health outcomes.
  • Reduce breeches of referral-to-treat cancer target.
  • Reduce clinical administrative burden to increase patient-facing time available for clinical cancer staff.
  • Improve patient safety by reducing near misses from elimination of human error in the many administrative processes.
  • Improve patient experience by using automated processes to send, for example, explanatory videos for procedures and other patient information.
  • Reduce patient coordinator’s administrative workload enabling higher value tasks including patient management.
  • Potential cost reduction through natural attrition of reduced workload on patient coordinator role.
  • Can be adapted to other cancer pathways.

Other points to note:

  • This case study is at ‘proof of concept’ stage.
  • Project funded by Gloucestershire CCG, the Somerset, Wiltshire, Avon & Gloucestershire Cancer Alliance, with support from University of Gloucestershire.
  • Identification of longer-term funding actively in progress to enable deployment, development and maintenance.
  • Open-source refers to ‘open code’ not open data. Code stored on GitHub and is freely shared. No patient confidential information is ever placed in the public domain.
  • Reference for open-source software used elsewhere in the NHS.

Contact for further information:

  • Dr Mark A. Bailey, Speciality Doctor in Speciality Respiratory Medicine and Clinical Informatician, Gloucestershire Royal Hospital.
    Email: bailey5@nhs.net

This case study is one in a series exploring the use of RPA in various NHS settings. It forms part of a guide produced by the West of England AHSN sharing our learning around RPA.

Read the full guide online here or download the guide as a PDF here.