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Blog | Jan 19, 2024

Change Cancer Care With Automated Patient Scheduling

Change Cancer Care With Automated Patient Scheduling
Table of Contents

Every Small Step in the Cancer Pathway Matters

Every step along the cancer pathway is crucial; each minute saved means better patient outcomes. Providing timely patient scheduling and reminders reduces healthcare organizations’ backlogs and ensures patients are getting the treatment they need when they need it.

So, let’s look at the “low hanging fruit” for automation, where patients and care providers can benefit immensely, and the results are direct and tangible.

Automating patient cancer pathways isn’t just about achieving good “customer services” in the healthcare industry – it’s about finding solutions so providers can improve the patient experience and have the capacity to give them the best possible care. And you can achieve this with healthcare automation via intelligent automation (IA).

IA brings together robotic process automation (RPA), business process management (BPM) and artificial intelligence (AI) to connect disparate healthcare systems, improve communications and streamline patient pathways, from first diagnosis to scheduling treatment and follow-ups. Because patient care starts with an appointment, and that first step should be seamless and simple.

How Can Patient Scheduling Be Automated?

RPA automates appointment scheduling, ensuring patients receive timely consultations, diagnostic tests and treatments. This means patients don’t have to sit on the phone for hours on hold with the call center or have a time-consuming back-and-forth with admin staff before getting the appointment they desperately need.

Automation streamlines appointment scheduling and removes process complexity to reduce wait times and increase patient’s access to necessary services. Digital workers can also automate surgery and treatment schedules to keep patients on track with timely and relevant therapies that may improve their prognosis.

What are the challenges with patient scheduling? 

Traditionally, staff must manually synchronize between departments to align with the patient’s availability for a suitable appointment time. Meanwhile, they’re navigating multiple complexities to check that appointment timings work, including understanding patient preferences, staff availability, clinic availability, emergency cases, etc. This can quickly become overwhelming when managing multiple appointments and means appointments can be delayed or missed entirely. This adds an extra layer of stress to an already concerned patient who is looking for timely treatment.

How can patient scheduling be improved? 

An automated patient scheduling software facilitated by IA digital workers can connect disparate systems and access relevant patient data in real time. It keeps this data secure with limited access, meaning only those who should have access to a patient’s medical records do. Meanwhile, IA also reduces the tedious, repetitive task of updating, booking, creating, changing, etc., an appointment. It does all of this automatically, ensuring accuracy and timeliness, and minimizing paperwork and backlogs.

What Are the Benefits of Using Automation in Patient Scheduling?

Healthcare processes can be extremely complex and reducing that complexity in patient appointment scheduling can be lifesaving. When we’re dealing with critical cases such as cancer treatments, it’s important to consider how reducing the steps used in creating an appointment can make a huge difference in a patient’s life. And as healthcare professionals, that care is your first priority. Now, let’s look at some of the many benefits the healthcare industry can achieve by utilizing IA technologies.

  • Monitoring and follow-up: RPA can automatically monitor patient treatment plans, ensuring that patients receive follow-up care, tests and screenings when they’re most effective. IA can also offer personalized medicine to patients with prescription reminders, as an example.
  • Proactive patient management: IA can follow established clinical protocols, schedule periodic check-ups, assess treatment progress and highlight potential side effects. Digital workers can flag anomalies to clinicians so they don’t miss critical information when diagnosing a patient’s symptoms.
  • Reduced wait times: Digital workers can automatically update records systems and notify staff and patients when follow-up appointments will occur – on time and without delays. They also update patient information on treatments and long-term side effects, ensuring no patients are forgotten or fall behind on essential care.
  • Patient self-service: IA allows patients to access self-service booking systems for many types of routine patient appointments. This frees staff from manual admin work and improves patient engagement. It also reduces wait times and appointment delays for cancer patients and enhances the delivery of cancer care services. 
  • Streamlined administrative tasks: IA deploys digital workers to perform administrative tasks like appointment scheduling and reminders, giving providers more time to dedicate to direct patient care.
  • Reduced appointment conflicts: Through automated appointment scheduling, digital workers can automatically coordinate between different clinical departments, patients and staff to find the optimal appointment time that considers patient preferences, reduces scheduling conflicts and sends automated appointment reminders so appointments aren’t missed.
  • Minimized manual tasks: IA automates appointment scheduling so admin staff can focus on other work. Digital workers perform their tasks 24/7, ensuring patients get their appointments scheduled sooner and at a time that suits them and the clinician best.
  • Better communication: IA can nudge patients by email or text to remind them to make appointments, or of upcoming scheduled treatments. These reminders provide personalized care and education to your patients so they understand every step in their healthcare journey.
  • Faster medical billing: Automation reduces billing costs by reducing the number of claim denials caused by errors or missing information.

IA augments work across healthcare departments, giving personalized scheduling online for patients, better work to clinical and administrative staff, and enhancing efficiency across the organization.

Who benefits from automated patient scheduling?

Patient scheduling software ensures shorter wait times and better access to patient data for clinicians. However, IA can benefit departments across the healthcare organization.

  • Contact center: Automate workflows to reduce manual work and human errors and increase the agent’s capacity to handle patient calls – improving patient satisfaction.
  • Clinical staff: Reduce pathway complexities and connect multiple systems so staff can work more efficiently.
  • Healthcare providers: Allocate resources better by allowing clinicians to focus on patient care instead of paperwork-heavy processes. Simplify the stages of accessing patient data so clinicians can make faster diagnoses.
  • IT management: IA ensures patient data is secure and your processes stay compliant with current healthcare regulations.

A Real-Life Example of Automating Patient Appointment Booking

An NHS Trust processed their appointment bookings over 70% faster by implementing SS&C Blue Prism digital workers and SS&C | Blue Prism® Cloud. The admin staff needed to clear appointment backlogs, so their automation team developed a simple desktop app.

The app sent a text to each patient on the waiting list and pointed them to an online booking form. Once the patient filled out the form, the SS&C Blue Prism digital workers picked up the booking request, entered it into the patient administration system and sent a confirmation email. And this was all done without requiring human intervention.

Incomplete records were escalated to staff to call the patient and use the online booking form. This gave patients a better experience and helped administrative staff do more qualitative work. Now, if a patient cancels an appointment last minute, digital workers automatically offer the opening to a patient on the waiting list.

Their results:

  • 36,000+ hours returned to the Trust in just five months.
  • £546,588 saved in five months on this process alone.
  • Improved experience for patients and staff alike.

“Appointment booking is our most intensive, transactional service. And we’ve been able to bring SS&C Blue Prism into that service. Our philosophy is, if we can bring intelligent automation into appointment bookings, we can bring it in anywhere across the business.”

Marc Hadwin

Head of digital services, University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust (UHMBT) , LinkedIn

A Simple Solution; A Large Impact

IA is designed to streamline processes like scheduling patient appointments through automated reminders, faster and more accurate booking systems and improved communication between systems and people.

Automating appointment scheduling is just the start of your automation journey. Healthcare organizations can improve patient processes end-to-end to improve patient outcomes and give clinicians more job satisfaction.

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