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Transformation Directorate sets sights on automatic data capture for NHS


Mark Say Managing Editor

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The NHS Transformation Directorate is planning to run a programme on the development of automatic data capture (ADC) in the health service.

Saf Angelo, its digital delivery team assistant director digital productivity, highlighted the plan as the latest stage in the development of automation within the NHS.

He was speaking at UKAuthority’s Automation & Bots4Good conference yesterday, outlining elements of the directorate’s digital productivity programme.

It is currently at the early stage of deciding what to do within the ADC initiative, which is aimed at helping the NHS achieve operational efficiencies through using proven technologies that automate the identification, tracking and collection of data from objects such as documents, medical devices and stock.

The aim is to run a series of implementations from early next year until March 2024, then embed the technology over the following 12 months.

It will involve identifying objects through radio frequency identification (RFID) or real time locating systems (RTLS), using barcodes, tags, readers and scanners, supported by Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS and radio frequency infrastructure. The data is collected and fed into a patient database or inventory management system.

Array of applications

Angelo listed a number of applications for the process, including the management of medicines, blood banks, medical devices, hospital beds and patient flows. It can also be used in patient and staff tracking, infection control and supply chain management.

He said the investment in ADC derives from the directorate’s horizon scanning for innovations, which has so far led to a sustained effort in robotic process automation (RPA) and can also involve extended reality.

“We’ve been focusing on robotic process automation, we are moving into the world of intelligent automation, then right on 24-25 it is moving towards machine learning and artificial intelligence,” he said.

RPA is now being used widely around NHS England, by 42 integrated care systems, 61% of acute trusts and 38% of community care and mental health trusts, according to figures presented by Angelo.

He said the focus of developing new automations is currently on the effort to make sure nobody waits more than two years for an elective treatment, and takes in referrals, appointments, diagnostics, theatres, outpatients and patient management.

“All of these areas have pressure points, from waiting list management, to validation, to diagnostics, to getting and receiving a test in a timely manner, to appointment booking and scheduling,” Angelo said. “The list is endless and the possibilities are endless. It gives you a flavour of where automation can alleviate some of those pressures.”

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