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Blog | Dec 14, 2023

Key Takeaways: Cutting Time Out of Cancer Pathways

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Streamlining Cancer Pathways for Outstanding Patient Outcomes

SS&C Blue Prism recently hosted the ‘Cutting Time Out of Cancer Pathways’ with Claire Read, contributor, HSJ hosting a discussion with panelists Karen Gorman, account director – healthcare, SS&C Blue Prism; Sharon Robson, program manager, early diagnosis, Northern Cancer Alliance; Amanda Sparkes, chief clinical officer, Inicio Health; and Ian Vousden, program director, Kent and Medway Cancer Alliance on how healthcare providers can cut the time out of cancer pathways, leading to faster diagnosis and treatment for patients with intelligent automation (IA).

We’ve highlighted a few key takeaways from the webinar, but to learn more about incorporating intelligent automation into the cancer pathway, download our e-book.

Ian Vousden on Key Interventions

Patient navigators

“We’ve had a degree of success looking at ways in which you can streamline the relevant elements of [patient] pathways between interventions. And some of the key interventions that we’ve been able to secure are roles like patient navigators, which are key in navigating patients through what can be quite a tricky pathway, particularly around their diagnostics in relation to making sure they’re aware the tests are coming up and then communicating the results of those tests.”

Sharon Robson on Reducing Pathway Delays

Workforce capacity

“The biggest challenge the NHS is facing is workforce capacity. So, getting staff and keeping staff, […] further exacerbated now by the cost of living. People join the NHS because they want to help people. And I think what we do a lot in our pathways is count how we’re failing as a system […] such as challenges around health inequalities.”

“We can cut out some of those [pathway] delays just by smoothing [them out], but the only way that we’ll be able to do that is by having the capacity to support people through that pathway.”

Streamlining pathways

“Navigating patients through their pathway, supporting them, getting over any barriers that they’re experiencing to enable them to have a smooth pathway, […] every little bit of time that we can save is perhaps one less sleepless night for a patient on a cancer pathway.”

Amanda Sparkes on Reducing Administrative Complexities

Disparate systems

“[…] The systems don’t talk to each other. […] It’s not to be underestimated: the layer of complexity that has been introduced from technology and the systems that don’t work well together. We needed 150 humans to administer the [role-free] part of the pathway. That’s incredibly stressful and tedious, monotonous, repetitive work.”

“We had an opportunity to automate and augment a lot of [the central team’s] work. […] The patients got the right appointment the first time. And that was brilliant in opening up real capacity.”

Karen Gorman on Freeing Up Capacity

Solving disparate systems

“Digital workers log into all of the systems that are used across the pathway just like a human. […] So it’s thinking through all the manual tasks that happen across the pathway of the people, acting as the glue between disparate systems and whether digital workers can actually take away and remove some of that mundane work – leaving the navigators to work with the patients and be released from some of that low, mundane, but high-volume repetitive tasks that can be done by the digital workers.”

The starting point of the navigation journey

“[We’re] looking at how we can remove that manual work to ensure that as soon as a two-week wait referral hits CRS, we can get digital workers to extract that, extract the attachments and upload it into the patient record and populate the cancer register.”

A real-life use case

“[Frimley has] 700 referrals a day coming in and at least 150 of those are two-week wait referrals. The digital workers replace that menial task the staff would’ve done and uploads that directly into the patient record for the clinicians to then triage.”

Assisting navigators

“By tracking and navigating the different diagnostic systems and updating events not only releases the work of navigators and supports them through that work; it also then ensures that all that information is updated for the costly reporting. So, rather than giving another list of tasks for the navigators to do, you’re actually updating, reporting and ensuring that your performance reporting is up to date and contains quality data.”

In Closing

In the webinar, the panel discussed a host of challenges as solutions for streamlining the cancer pathways and making outcomes better for patients and clinicians.

A final note from Karen Gorman on digital workers in cancer care

“[Digital workers] are your software robots that can be trained to copy and emulate the work that the teams are doing, whether that’s the NDT teams or the navigating teams. They’re trained in exactly following the process the workforce does currently and logging into all those different systems, navigating through capturing the data and uploading it into wherever it needs to go.

“Of course, these software digital workers work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They’re not off for Christmas Day […] and they don’t need to go through mandatory training. They’re just working constantly all day, every day. When you look at the throughput and the activity of being able to work through backlogs, improve those pathways and release another day on that pathway – that’s what digital workers allow you to do.”

So, there you have it! Digital workers aim to connect disparate systems, cover staffing shortages, reduce patient backlogs and speed up referral times, all with the end goal of getting cancer patients the critical care they need sooner – saving lives through automation.

Remember, you can read our e-book, ‘Modernizing the Cancer Pathway With Intelligent Automation’, to learn more.

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