Software robotics automatizes mechanical work in a hospital

The mechanical work carried out on information systems is transferred from professionals to software bots. The kidney clinic is coming up with a software bot that checks the patient’s laboratory visits. The definition work of this robot has been done with Smart Health funding from the City of Tampere. Transferring mechanical work to robotics saves time for nursing and increases the meaningfulness and job satisfaction of the nurse.

The use of software robotics in a hospital environment is designed to transfer routines performed on information systems to be automatically implemented by a computer. The possibilities offered by robotics are wide ranging from nursing tasks to financial administration’s and human resources’ needs. Robotics can equally support nurse, doctor and secretary work. The reasons behind the development and experimentation of software robotics are the goals of increasing work meaningfulness and job satisfaction, as well as cost efficiency.

With process automation, we try to transform the underlying tasks that take the time from the actual added value work, explains Aki Lehto, the leader of digitalization projects in Hospital District of Tampere Region.

Cost-effectiveness in software robotics is mainly generated through quality assurance. From the point of view of the quality and meaningfulness of work, the task of converting a mechanical repetitive clicking job into a software robot saves time for the actual caring work, thereby improving the enjoyment of the work. Robotics can also be used to control the human errors that may occur in the performance of mechanical work, which has an effect on improving patient safety. For example, for a few years now, the local first aid has been using a software bot to remind medical staff to take a look at the patient’s radiology images and statements. This ensures that no one’s patient data is left unchecked and nothing is diagnostically unnoticed.

The digital nurse knows what to do

The introduction of software robotics in a hospital begins with a mapping of needs. At Tampere University Hospital this is done by Olli Tasso, who is called a digital nurse. At the beginning of the process, units are gathered to meet the needs of robotics and to seek common denominators. The experiments to be carried out will be chosen in cases where the nurses use most time with ICT, and on the other hand, the cases that are repeated from one unit to another and are thus scalable in the future.

Nurses have a lot of work that could be done by automation. There are several systems that do not discuss with each other. A robot is a good middleman so that you do not have to manually move and go through such information, Tasso tells about his experience.

A software bot is like a digital worker who uses software in the same way as a human being, clicking according to its specification. For example, a software bot uses its own user IDs, as a person would use to log on to systems. The robot only carries out routine tasks that are programmed for it and that do not require creative reasoning.

At the kidney clinic, the robot checks the laboratory visits

One of the first experiments is the kidney clinic’s software bot. The robot checks overnight whether the next day’s patients have been in the laboratory. If the patient has not been in the laboratory before the medical time, the time of reception must be shifted. Until now, the nurse has had to manually check the laboratory visits each morning from patient records. The robot does not interpret the laboratory results but only informs the caregiver of the patients whose medical time should be changed. Experiments with the kidney clinic are expected to save nurses’ working hours considerably to prepare for the actual patient meetings and therapeutic tasks.

The software robot does not use artificial intelligence, because it does not learn new things, but always works in the same way as it has been programmed. The definition phase for commissioning a robot is extremely important and requires several meetings between the unit, department, and information management. A detailed configuration document is created for the software robot, where all the possible steps that the robot needs to operate within the software are shown as a click-through path. After that Istek’s partner, Digital Workforce, implements the programming of the robot based on the document.

There may be several weeks in the definition phase, because there is almost always something to fix in the document. Every click has to be considered. After testing, during the deployment phase, I and the Digital Workforce have a tighter tracking period when we are ready to make quick changes if there are problems with robot operation, Tasso describes.

In the first experiments, processes related to the introduction of robotics have been learned and the necessary digital platforms and environments as well as computer backup systems have been established. In the future, one can build on these foundations.

A software robot is a safe partner

The deployment of software bots does not involve any significant risks, as bots only do what they have been defined to do. For example, in a dermatology clinic, the robot that automatically transfers the time reserved for the examination of the patient’s medical records will only transfer the time of each patient for a week and only once.

It is best to go with the smallest reliable steps and first look for the worst cases to solve and then look to the future, says Lehto.

Whenever a robot is in use, it has always been agreed with the departments on how to proceed if there is a problem with the robot’s operation. During the pilot phase, the introduction of a robot will not change the operations of the departments. Only when the results are visible and it is known how much time can be saved, can it be considered how to control time in a more meaningful and effective way. In the future the management will have an important role in guiding the released time to produce genuine added value.

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