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Empowering patient care with smart technology


The role of intelligent automation in managing cancer treatments.

digital health dashboard: © woravut - stock.adobe.com

© woravut - stock.adobe.com

While advanced technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) are playing a role in developing innovative therapies to battle cancer, these technologies can also help behind the scenes to manage the volumes of data generated during treatment. A patient’s cancer care journey is weighed down by manual procedures every step of the way.

Various diagnostic procedures, such as laboratory tests, biopsies, pathology assessments and imaging services, involve extensive paperwork and data management. Automating these processes can lead to shorter treatment and recovery times, enabling healthcare organizations to provide better and more compassionate care while optimizing existing resources.

Streamlining the treatment pathway

© SS&C Blue Prism

Anna Twomey
© SS&C Blue Prism

When it comes to cancer diagnosis and treatment, time is of the essence. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for every 100,000 people, 403 new cancer cases were reported in the U.S. in 2020. Ensuring each step of treatment is meticulously recorded and accompanied by relevant information is vital for cancer conferences or specialist consultations about the patient’s care.

Behind the scenes, various clinical and administration staff must coordinate several layers of patient care. Multidisciplinary expert teams of clinicians need to decide on clinical care, supported by teams of clerical staff to manage coordination and track the patient through their pathway. This is done also to help organize patient appointments, so records follow the patient. Pharmacies can use this data to track and deliver life-saving medications faster – some of which have a shelf life of minutes.

It is essential that the referral, appointment and diagnostics phases are accurate and prompt because the earlier the diagnosis, the sooner a treatment plan can be formulated and enacted. At this critical stage, however, manual tasks like paperwork and the need to manually duplicate data entry into multiple IT systems could stall the patient’s path to timely care.

To address the problem of overworked health care staff and equipment, a British health care trust has adopted automation to help improve the diagnosis processes. By using intelligent automation (IA) to collate the FIT data for all patients with suspected colon cancer, for instance, the health care trust now automatically populates the information for quarterly submissions. Automation saves the staff 40 hours per month, allowing more time to manage patient pathways.

Digital workers save time and improve accuracy

Intelligent automationcan support and streamline the steps at all stages of the cancer pathway. This helps to ensure that patients can access their care sooner with better accuracy as they move through their treatment pathway faster. Digital workers can automate test triaging, ordering and results retrieval, and enhance communication and collaboration between departments.
On the clinical side, digital workers can accurately and quickly flag inconsistencies. Performing these types of tasks can free up clinical staff and radiologists to perform higher-value work. In pathology and imaging services, automations 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 administrative teams to automate surgery and treatment scheduling to keep patients on track with timely and relevant therapies that may improve their prognosis.

IA can implement tools such as machine learning algorithms that could help health care providers in the future to suggest potential treatment recommendations. With AI technologies behind intelligent automation continuously evolving, IA will potentially help develop therapies or monitor the effectiveness of therapy. It will also aid specialists in predicting therapy efficacy to reduce patient side effects.

Focusing on the human side of cancer care

Cancer treatment is often a long and grueling process, both emotionally and physically. Utilizing intelligent automation to streamline processes and improve accuracy in cancer care will allow clinical staff more time to focus on the patient.

The discharge and care phase of a patient’s cancer pathway follows the completion of active cancer treatment and should be done with a thorough record of all patient data. It focuses on the transition from hospital or clinic-based care to posttreatment and survivorship care. In this phase, automation can speed up discharge planning, development of posttreatment care and support scheduling of vital regular follow-up appointments to monitor recovery as well as ongoing screening to detect potential cancer recurrence.

When treatment concludes, it is essential that health care providers keep in contact with the patient to ensure there are no relapses or adverse side effects. Patients require comprehensive support, ongoing monitoring and survivorship care to ensure long-term care for a healthy and fulfilling life after cancer. Advanced virtual agents, powered by digital workers, can be used to manage communications with the patient, manage future appointments or gather patient updates.

Offering peace of mind for patients and clinical staff

Combining automation and health services, while keeping humans in the loop, is closing the gap between clinical systems and service delivery. Digital workers can automatically update patient records and notify staff and patients when follow-up appointments will occur – on time and without delays.

Digital workers can also update patient treatment and long-term side effect data as patients are seamlessly tracked, even after discharge from active cancer treatment. This means already overworked clinical staff can focus on patient care over filling out or finding paperwork.

Introducing automation into the cancer pathway can lead to better patient communication, reduce administrative costs and provide more time for health care providers to focus on patient care. It is beneficial for patients, clinical staff and the health care organization as a whole – providing a lifeline for cancer care that starts with intelligent automation.

Anna Twomey is senior director, healthcare providers – the Americas for SS&C Blue Prism. With more than 25 years of experience as a consultant and adviser in health care technology, she brings a range of expertise across disease surveillance, accountable care organizations, population health management, regulatory compliance, the HIPAA Privacy Rule, and the required rulings of computerized provider order entry and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

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