When it comes to a cancer diagnosis and treatment, every minute counts. The European Commission estimates that cancer incidence by 2040 will impact 3m people a year. By significantly reducing treatment and recovery times with the help of technology, healthcare organisations will be able to provide better and more compassionate care with the resources they have available.
“Current cancer care is driven by manual processes from start to finish,” explains Karen Gorman, Account Director for Healthcare at SS&C Blue Prism. “Diagnostic tests – including laboratory and biopsies, pathology, and imaging services – are characterised by large volumes of paperwork and data handling. Ensuring each step is meticulously followed without hindrance and accompanied by the relevant information is vital for patient conferences or specialist consultations.”
In addition to delivering the best possible care to these patients and ensuring these manual tasks are followed accurately, the same oncology specialists are also developing new molecular diagnosis and innovative therapies shaping future cancer medicine.
Here, Gorman tells us more about SS&C Blue Prism’s role in cancer care and the importance of Intelligent Automation (IA).
What is the cancer pathway process?
“The cancer pathway process starts with the essential referral, then appointment and diagnostics and it is critical that these phases are accurate and prompt. The earlier the diagnosis, the sooner a treatment plan can be decided and enacted. But indispensable manual tasks like paperwork and manually duplicating data entry to multiple IT systems at this crucial stage, could stall the patient’s path to timely care. Multiple clinical and admin staff need to coordinate various aspects of patient care behind the scenes.
“Multidisciplinary expert teams of clinicians (MDT) need to decide on clinical care, supported by teams of clerical staff to manage coordination and tracking the patient through their pathway. But also to help coordinate patient appointments, so records follow the patient at the same time, as well as arranging hospital beds and surgery rooms. Additionally, pharmacies can use this data to track and deliver life-saving medications to patients in a rapid time frame.”
How can IA help ease workloads and streamline efficiency?
“Coordinating patient appointments and tracking progress is very time-consuming and laden with paperwork. The chore often falls on overworked healthcare staff, who are already in high demand. To address this, a British healthcare trust in the North-East of England has adopted SS&C Blue Prism automations that are helping contribute to improving the diagnosis processes.
“By using IA to collate the FIT data for all patients with suspected colon cancer from their Electronic Patient Record and Cancer Register, the trust now automatically populates the Data Collection Tool spreadsheet for quarterly submission to their Cancer Alliance. The quality and consistency of patient information have been significantly improved and the automation has saved the Cancer Team 40 hours per month. Cancer trackers now spend less time tracking down data across multiple, disparate systems and more time reviewing managing patient pathways and ensuring better patient care.”
How can Intelligent Automation improve the time to diagnosis for cancer patients?
“IA can support and streamline the steps at all stages of the cancer pathway, ensuring patients can access their care faster, more accurately and effectively. Digital workers can automate test triaging, ordering and results retrieval and enhance communication and collaboration between departments.
“On the clinical side, IA can implement tools such as machine learning (ML) algorithms to provide decision support tools to help healthcare providers suggest potential treatment recommendations. Digital workers are accurate and can flag inconsistencies. Performing these types of tasks can release clinical staff and radiologists for higher-value work.
“With IA technologies continuously evolving, IA will potentially help develop therapies or monitor effectiveness of therapy. It will also aid specialists in predicting therapy efficacy to reduce patient side-effects.”
What are the advantages of using digital workers within the cancer pathway process?
“In pathology and imaging services, automations, such as digital workers, can be used to increase the speed and accuracy of case reviewing and reporting times, so patients and the clinical care team receive a diagnosis sooner. Digital workers can also assist admin teams to automate surgery and treatment scheduling to keep patients on track with timely and relevant therapies that may improve their prognosis.”
How can IA support the patient discharge and follow up care?
“Using IA means clinical staff can also focus on the human side of cancer care, since, in the future, more oncology therapies will take place in an outpatient setting. The discharge and care phase of a patient’s cancer pathway follows the completion of active treatment and should be done with a thorough record of all patient data, focusing on the transition to post-treatment and survivorship care.
“Automation can speed up discharge planning, development of post-treatment care and support scheduling of vital regular follow-up appointments to monitor recovery and ongoing screening to detect potential cancer recurrence.
“Once treatment has concluded, healthcare workers must keep in contact to ensure no relapses or side effects. Due to the emotional and physical strain, recovering cancer patients often require comprehensive support, monitoring and care. Advanced Virtual Agents, powered by digital workers, can be used to manage communications with the patient.
“Automation will continue to seamlessly follow patients after discharge with clinical staff focusing on care over filling out or finding paperwork. Patients are automatically tracked, offering peace of mind to patients and medics alike, digital workers can automatically update patient records and notify staff and patients when follow-up appointments will occur. They can also update patient treatment and long-term side effect data.”
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