How automation and robots can accelerate the vaccine rollout
By Luke Kelly, Director Global Services, UiPath Australia & New Zealand
Tuesday, 01 June, 2021
History’s largest vaccination program is well on its way. As we pass more than one year from the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of vaccinations are being administered each day all over the globe. But while some countries have been able to act quickly and roll out their vaccine programs, others haven’t been able to move at pace.
In Australia, we’re fortunate that the COVID-19 response was relatively successful. Swift government action in the early stages of the pandemic meant we’re now in a position to ease social distancing restrictions but quickly introduce measures and lockdowns when there are cases to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the community.
But while our response has been praised globally, our vaccine rollout program hasn’t attracted the same recognition. Looking beyond the political discourse around vaccination sourcing and production delays, our vaccine rollout has been slower than most. In fact, as of May 2021, Australia is nearly 3 million doses behind the official government plan. There is increasing pressure on the government and healthcare industry to speed up the rollout and relook at its vaccination strategy.
One way to help accelerate Australia’s vaccination efforts is to consider the implementation of automation and robots. Around the globe, healthcare organisations are beginning to realise the benefits of robotic process automation (RPA) — the technology that allows anyone to configure computer software, or a ‘robot’, to emulate and integrate the actions of a human to execute a business process. The true value of RPA is that these software robots automate the manual, repetitive tasks, allowing employees to work on more meaningful tasks.
Throughout the pandemic, automation played a vital role in enabling businesses to navigate uncertainty, with two-thirds of business leaders reporting they used automation to respond to the pandemic. At UiPath, we helped companies automate their processes across industries. For example, we helped a sanitiser production company process a 10x increase in orders by deploying RPA to handle the spike in orders. Our RPA solutions also helped with processing applications for 100,000 new delivery positions for one of the biggest online retailers in the US.
Healthcare organisations also took advantage of readily available RPA software to help accelerate critical processes and free up strapped employees so they could rapidly respond to issues arising as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, the Centers for Disease Control managed to reduce a virus testing process from 2–3 minutes to 14–16 seconds by using UiPath’s robot.
With the government abandoning vaccination targets, it’s time to begin looking at automation to speed up the rollout.
Data transparency was the largest hurdle to overcome through the COVID-19 pandemic. Avoiding prior mistakes, new platforms were prepared early to support vaccine rollout. However, older electronic medical record platforms that cannot ingest application programming interfaces and human resource applications that aren’t integrated still require manual intervention.
Automation has been used heavily to automate the entry of data into government web portals to improve accuracy and meet compliance timelines. In the vaccine rollout, RPA can also assist with occupational health vaccination updates for state employees, clinic state vaccination records for first responders and teachers, and vaccine batch tracing updates.
In recent years, health systems have made significant investments in digital front-door solutions that can be used to manage the registration of vaccination requests from the public. However, many organisations don’t have access to these solutions, which means they might have to rely on web portals and event platforms to schedule vaccinations.
While these platforms can work well with scheduling, they require back-end data entry followed by clinical coordination to register and communicate with the patients. Automation can support by keeping web portals and registration in sync, with many of the software robots creating new medical record numbers and looking for duplicate patient profiles. By automating this process, vaccination centres can dedicate more staff to administering the vaccine.
Supply chain management
Allocation management is a global issue as organisations work to secure the personal protective equipment (PPE) that their employees and clinicians need to work every day. At the height of the pandemic, organisations automated their special request processes to adjust available PPE volumes before the day started so that research into substitute sources could be done proactively.
RPA can assist with vaccine supply chain management by automating special request allocations, integrating vial/batch data reporting and manufacturer reporting.
For example, a global hospital recently automated their special request allocation reporting for PPE and future vaccine allocation requirements. The automation has reduced PPE inventory cycle time by almost one week.
From automating the scheduling process to regulatory reporting and managing the supply chain, robots can help free up manual processes and be deployed within a matter of days, with solutions delivered within a week with testing. As we look to accelerate the vaccine rollout, it’s important to consider the role that automation and RPA can play to help administer millions of doses across our nation.
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