NHS Lothian – Intelligent referral triage
With the NHS increasingly under pressure to deliver more with less, services must consider how they can innovate in order to make the most efficient use of existing resources. This means seeing the right patient, in the right place, at the right time with the shortest-possible waiting time, especially for those patients waiting for a cancer diagnosis.
Deloitte approached NHS Lothian having identified an opportunity that might exist for new automation technologies to help address some of the challenges with patient waiting times. Bringing together a team of experts in AI, analytics, Robotic Process Automation, regulatory requirements, technology project management, hospital operations and clinical practice, Deloitte has worked alongside NHS Lothian in redesigning triage processes, reducing the manual burden on expert clinical staff and thereby speeding up patient journeys.
A first of its kind project within NHS Scotland, and likely the whole of the UK, the initial phase of the project has focussed on automating the clinical triage process for a cohort of urgent-suspected-cancer GP referrals. This was selected as the first specialty due to the high level of demand – 20-30 referrals each day; high proportion of potential cancer patients – over 30% of referrals were classified as urgent-suspected-cancer; long waiting lists – over 52 weeks, and; the complexity of its triage process, with over 120 different triage permutations. If AI could help solve the problem here, then it could work in other specialties too.
Although part of a much longer journey, the initial work in Gastroenterology has already reduced administrative workloads through attended RPA and reduced variation in referral triage. The first full automation, which is going live in January 2020, will automate the triage process for 50% of urgent-suspected-cancer referrals, further reducing administrative work and shortening referral waiting times for these patients. Benefits are set to grow as the use of intelligent automation technologies is extended beyond Gastroenterology to other high-volume cancer specialties, with the next being breast cancer.
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