Virtual robots are making time matter for our staff, as well as patients, in Colchester Hospital’s Cardio-Respiratory department.
Robotic automation has been introduced to take the strain out of the referral process and give time back to colleagues so they can offer more support to clinical teams and patients.
The team were receiving a huge amount of referrals for diagnostic tests, ranging from electrocardiograms (ECGs), cardiac echoes, pacemaker checks and lung function tests, and the administration team were struggling to keep up. The booking co-ordinator was even starting her shift an hour early every day to try and stay on top of the work load.
Now she doesn’t have to do that.
Sharon Archer, head of Cardio-Respiratory at Colchester Hospital, said:
It takes the pressure off and my team have more time do their jobs. My booking co-ordinator can now get straight on with booking the patients, managers can see the true volume of work coming through the department and we are able to identify the demand very quickly and plan to put on extra lists where needed.
This also means we have more time to phone patients with their appointment times which should ultimately lead to a reduction in our ‘did not attend’ rate and patients trying to get through to the department to re-arrange their appointments.
The robots have become part of the team and have enabled our administration staff to use their time more effectively.
Deputy director of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Darren Atkins at East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust (ESNEFT), which runs Colchester Hospital, along with robotics and integration developer Ian Mitchell worked closely with Sharon and her team to automate the referral process that is now running 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
They identified there were 56 steps just to register a patient, before any booking had been done, with ten different types of referral across 95 different fields.
Pictured: Darren Atkins, Ian Mitchell and Sharon Archer
The robot processes orders for referrals as soon as they come in. Before, the administration team had so much to do, they would print off the ones they needed and book the referral later. Now, thanks to the robot, there are no delays and all the registering of referrals are ready for the team to book.
The project took just eight weeks to develop, despite every individual step in the process needing to be built from scratch.
Ian, who moved into the automation team after managing the Trust’s ICT Service Desk, said:
It’s really satisfying to get the project live and see the benefits of robotic technology in action. To be able to give something back to the staff in Cardio-Respiratory is incredibly rewarding.
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This is an excellent example of clinical teams working closely with ICT to introduce supportive technology that contributes to ESNEFT’s strategy of making time matter.
In April the automation team will deliver more than 2,000 hours of time back to our hardworking staff. ESNEFT are recognised internationally as leaders in healthcare automation and we are collaborating with organisations in the UK and the US to further accelerate our delivery programme.