Leveraging Intelligent Automation to Improve Cancer Care: A Step Towards Meeting NHS Targets

Published On: October 31, 2023|

In today’s healthcare world, where demand for services continues to grow, Leeds Teaching Hospitals has embarked on a mission to use intelligent automation as a solution to address the pressing issues of delivering effective cancer care in the face of increasing demand and staffing constraints. By automating critical tasks such as patient tracking, data entry and diagnostic processes, Leeds Teaching Hospitals is redefining the way it works. This innovative approach not only streamlines healthcare operations, but also frees healthcare professionals to focus on what they do best: providing timely and efficient patient care.

The NHS and the Challenge of Increasing Demand

The fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic presented unprecedented challenges to healthcare systems worldwide, and the NHS was no exception. In the journey towards recovery, a substantial surge in activity emerged, accompanied by an influx of referrals, particularly in suspected cancer cases, demanding rapid processing. Concurrently, outpatient and radiology appointments faced prolonged waiting times. The strain on administrative teams, notably those in Outpatient Scheduling and Cancer Services, became increasingly apparent.

As a result, various aspects of the service provided by these teams began to deteriorate, negatively impacting patient care, increasing clinical risk and hindering the Trust’s ability to meet performance targets. Data quality and reporting of referral to treatment (RTT) and cancer waiting times (CWT) also suffered.

The situation was exacerbated by ever-increasing referral numbers and the development of cancer pathways, which placed an even greater workload on the Cancer Tracking Team. Staffing levels in this team were insufficient to support the frequency of pathway monitoring required to support effective pathway coordination.

The Role of Intelligent Automation in Revolutionising Cancer Care

The cancer team at Leeds Teaching Hospital receives a large number of referrals, and to ease the burden, Intelligent Automation proved to be an efficient solution to these multi-faceted challenges.  With the support of E18 Innovation as their automation partner, here’s how Intelligent Automation is revolutionising cancer care, helping Leeds Teaching Hospitals support efforts to deliver key targets and paving the way for improved clinical outcomes.

Firstly, it expedites diagnoses, with the goal of diagnosing more cases at manageable stages 1 or 2 by 2028, promising better outcomes and curative possibilities. Secondly, it enhances patient tracking and data management, granting healthcare professionals rapid access to results and patient data, thereby improving decision-making and patient care quality. Lastly, it plays a pivotal role in achieving the 31- and 62-day treatment targets by streamlining administrative processes, ensuring quicker access to necessary treatments for cancer patients.

One compelling example of this transformation is the application of automation in the Faecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) process, a vital tool in early colorectal cancer detection. Through automation, FIT testing becomes more efficient by systematically collecting and logging patient samples, directly managing data from FIT kits, facilitating instant result reporting, scheduling follow-up tests based on results, conducting data analytics, reducing patient wait times, sending patient reminders, integrating with other health systems, ensuring quality assurance, and optimising resource allocation. In summary, automation streamlines the FIT process, ensuring timely, accurate, and efficient testing—crucial in early colorectal cancer detection and treatment.

Ruby Ali, Associate Director of Operations at Leeds Teaching Hospitals, emphasises the transformative impact of automation on patient care, setting new benchmarks for the NHS in early diagnosis, treatment times, and healthcare standards:

“Our mission at Leeds Teaching Hospitals has always been to deliver timely, efficient, and high-quality patient care. Facing the unprecedented challenges of our times, we turned to intelligent automation, ensuring that despite the increasing demand, we do not waver in our commitment. […] I’m proud to say that in Leeds, the future of cancer care isn’t just promising; it’s already unfolding. The strides we’ve made in improving early diagnosis, reducing treatment times, and prioritising patient care have set new benchmarks for the NHS. Through innovative solutions, we’re not only working towards meeting our objectives – we’re reimagining the very standards of healthcare delivery.”

The roadmap for the future of cancer care in the NHS is bold, especially with the recent changes to targets, but intelligent automation is helping Leeds Teaching Hospitals streamline cancer care pathways.

In conclusion, intelligent automation isn’t just a buzzword, it’s a potential lifeline for the NHS and its patients. By pioneering this revolutionary approach, Leeds Teaching Hospitals serves as an inspiring example of how technology can be used to overcome challenges and pave the way for a better future in cancer care. The benefits at Leeds are threefold: improved early diagnosis, faster results and better patient tracking, and shorter treatment times.

By harnessing the power of automation, Leeds Teaching Hospitals is making positive strides towards  meeting its targets, as well as setting new standards in the delivery of efficient, timely and patient-centred care, freeing up staff to do what they do best – patient care. It’s more than a step forward; it’s a leap towards a more responsive and resilient healthcare system.

Originally appeared in: issuu.com

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