Building RPA at Helsinki University Hospital (HUS): Discussion with Minna Pekkala, Head of Robotics

Finland’s largest Hospital District, HUS – The Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa – is a joint authority formed by 24 municipalities. Functioning as part of HUS, Helsinki University Hospital (HUH) is nationally responsible for treating severe and rare illnesses and ones calling for special expertise and technology. HUS hospitals employ over 24,000 professionals in 23 locations and received a total of 2,6 million patient visits in 2017.


Summary of our webinar with Minna Pekkala, Head of Robotics at Helsinki University Hospital (HUS)

How are digital workers delivered at HUS?

“HUS’s digital workers are delivered as a service (by Digital Workforce). This means we don’t have to buy our own licenses or servers, manage or update hardware, or worry about scalability. We think that the cost of service is predictable, and believe this can help us be cost-effective. We use service delivered from Azure cloud and Blue Prism (Robotic Process Automation, RPA) technology. We had already tested the technology over 2 years ago when we had our Proof-of-Concept.”

How is Robotic Process Automation managed?

“Because we are a large organisation we wanted to make sure that the project management wouldn’t be split in different units. That is why our (RPA) management is centralised in our IT management. Our duty is to make implementation possible and offer RPA development across the organisation.”

“We hit ‘go’ 7-8 months ago. With RPA, we want to help our employees automate routine processes and allocate more time to actual patient care.”

How do you choose processes for automation? 

“When we choose potential processes to automate we put weight on cost savings: How much is the work going to cost and what is the actual return on investment?”

“We have also required that the workflow can be copied. This means that the same process can be run in several different units. And of course, in our operating environment we always think about patient safety and customer quality.”

What has been done so far?

“At the moment we have two different processes in production and four more will follow soon. All in all, we have identified more than 50 potential processes and already 13 of those are in building.”

“Examples of our pilot processes include:

1) RADU-referrals: These radiology request forms are currently working in two different units, but we have 30 locations where the process can be copied.

2) Virtual referrals: Our hospital gets over 300 000 referrals a year. RPA is in operation at 6 locations doing classification, transfer and handling of referrals. If you think about scalability, we have still 37 more units where we can help with receiving referrals and redirecting them to specialists (by expanding the automation). We can use Machine Learning to help classify referrals.”

What have you learned?

“It’s not possible to communicate too much – to deploy RPA you have to concentrate on change management! Few people really know what Robotic Process Automation is and it raises questions among employees and management. People may be afraid of replacement so you need to commit management. The message of why we use RPA must come from line managers. Change often happens slowly in large organisations. There many parties and actors and everyone has their own opinion. You also can’t forget IT – without IT you can’t bring technology to use.”

“Then processes you are going to automate: Who owns them, who knows them best, who can give permission for (RPA) production? Does the process need changes to be automated with RPA? “

“Finally, you have robots, the users. Robots need identity. They have user access, but the robots are not human individuals and in certain systems it may cause problems. Robots can’t learn new system features without their model of work being updated. RPA updates must be synchronised with system changes.”

“RPA is not the final step. You must be ready to think about other options and possibilities as well. For example, RPA with Machine Learning can be very productive.”

Do you have a steering group for RPA?

“We do have a steering group. We have a head doctor who is responsible for clinical processes, a person from our administrative unit and two managers from IT management. We decide priorities, cost locations and project funding.”

“In my opinion, it is important that we have people involved from different sides of our organisation because we need to consider the benefits of the whole hospital.”

What expertise do u need to operate robotics in large scale?

“We buy software as a service (from Digital Workforce) and we do have a Centre of Excellence, but at the moment its only me. In the future, I would like us to have a project manager and perhaps a technical architect is also needed.”

What is your target for next year? How many processes will you automate?

“At least 50. But we would like closer to 100. Cost efficiency grows with scaling up.”

What do you think are the greatest obstacles when starting with RPA?

“It’s a lot of work to build the service up, I would recommend having a project manager for running tasks. In general, it’s good to have more hands and heads put together.”


Want to learn more? Listen to the complete webinar recording here


Mads Laastad of Digital Workforce Norway presents his scientific paper on Robotic Rehabilitation at the IEEE International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems

We are delighted to share with you that our Solutions Consultant, Mads Laastad from Digital Workforce Norway has been invited to present his paper on robotics and automation at the IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS 2018) in Madrid, Spain. The event takes place October 1-5, 2018 and we will be sharing highlights from the event and the latest research on AI, robotics and automation on social media and the Digital Workforce blog.

Looking forward to an exciting week in Madrid, we are proud to share with you the selected paper “Feasibility of the UR5 Industrial Robot for Robotic Rehabilitation of the Upper Limbs After Stroke” by Mads Laastad and associate professor Øyvind Stavdahl from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), and associate professor Erik Kyrkjebø from the Western Norway University of Applied Sciences.

Get the paper in PDF here.

Digital Workforce is the strategic partner to the City of Espoo’s introduction of organization-wide process automation

Digital Workforce has been selected as the strategic partner to Espoo’s social and healthcare function in the introduction of organization-wide process automation. Over the last years, Espoo has developed a good understanding of how software robots work and where they can be used to create most value. Ropsu, the city’s first cloud-based digital worker has been working successfully in the city’s home care unit for elderly people since 2016. Now the city, known as the forerunner of digital solutions, prepares to ramp-up the use of digital workers across the organization.

Espoo’s robotic journey

Ropsu, Espoo’s first digital worker delivered by Digital Workforce, has worked tirelessly for over a year in the city’s home care unit for elderly people. The robot works in the home care unit’s resourcing process, where it calculates substitution needs and makes the necessary substitute work orders and entries to the city’s ERP system. Ropsu’s performance continues to exceed expectations, and its introduction has also increased the customer’s understanding of software robots and their applications. In Espoo, very soon after the pilot project started it became easy to identify new processes applicable for automation. These and many other processes will soon be executed by new digital workers. Ropsu’s work will also be further expanded.

Digital workers create value for both customers and employees

The new digital colleagues are highly anticipated in Espoo. The city’s experience with awards-winning Ropsu showed that when the nursing staff was able to concentrate on customer care, the most valuable and rewarding part of their work, their job satisfaction increased. At the same time, utilizing the digital worker made it possible to accelerate business processes and improve the quality and efficiency of service. The robot was not perceived as a threat, but as a long-waited help in a situation where the staff’s time was increasingly tied to recurring computer-based tasks. Applying the same logic, Espoo has been able to identify many other processes that can – when automated – enable the city staff to concentrate on creating true value for their customers.

Digital Workforce returns to Vitalis eHealth conference in 2017!

Digital Workforce returns to Vitalis: Meet us at our stand B02:41, April 25-27 2017! 

We also introduce, in collaboration with PwC Sweden, a keynote from a RPA Pioneer and Innovation LeadStephen Chilton of Birmingham University Hospital. Come hear more about the virtual workforce revolutionising healthcare on April 27, 2017 13.00 – 13.30!

Vitalis is the largest eHealth event in Scandinavia and the event attracts a growing audience each year. Representatives from the healthcare sector, public authorities, academia and industry gather with the shared aim of building their knowledge and improving tomorrow’s healthcare. Knowledge building, networking and important discussion regarding the future of healthcare and how visions can be trans­formed into reality. Join the movement!

Join us in Göteborg 25-27 Apr 2017 – See the visitor guide to find out everything you need for your visit to the fair. Digital Workforce stand B02:41.

Face tomorrow’s challenges with digital workforce by your side! Contact us to unravel the automation potential hiding in your organisation.

Digital Workforce marches forward on a mission to improve healthcare processes

Digital Workforce continues to actively participate in the development of healthcare processes. The company was recently accepted on a list of suppliers of an acquisition ring led by HUS and Ropsu, a home care software robot, took victory in an international innovation competition. Inspired by the news, we decided to share some practical experiences from our completed projects.

Automation has produced exciting results in many healthcare processes and induced positive reactions across staff in all organisation we’ve worked with.

Tasks we have delivered software robots to perform in healthcare organisations include:

  • Registering examination referrals
  • Reporting laboratory results
  • Making food orders
  • Resourcing staff
  • Creating reports for management
  • Transferring data between hospital and home care systems
  • Checking invoices
  • Transferring data from an old system to a new one in a system reform
  • Processing reminders related to examination reports

Take a peek at our customers’ experience with RPA in the following videos:

Face tomorrow’s challenges with digital workforce by your side! Contact us to unravel the automation potential hiding in your organisation. 

Photo Blue Coat Photos license CC BY 2.0

New research: A third of doctors use over 6 hours of their shift on knowledge work

Press release – free publishing 20.4.2016
Knowledge work with its routines grabs up to half the work time of doctors and other healthcare professionals. Tekes funded pioneering research by Digital Workforce Nordic Oy, and investigated the use of time on knowledge work among public health care workers. 5754 people working in nine Finnish health care districts participated in the study, the respondents represented 64% of all health care district employees. The response percentage was 9,2%.

Registering the same data multiple times produces costs. A third of all respondents report registering the same information on different IT systems over 30 minutes a shift. This adds to the amount of overall knowledge work and frustration of employees. 83% of doctors say that the current IT systems communicate poorly with each other. Doctors have become expensive secretaries as put by one of the respondents.

Hundreds of millions worth savings potential in knowledge work automation

Knowledge work has increased over the last two years among all participants but especially nurses (84% of nurse respondents) report an increase in the amount of knowledge work. 62% of doctors say they use over four hours and almost one third more than six hours per work shift on knowledge work.

-One third of respondents report to register the same information on different IT systems at minimum 7% of their work shift. Measured as direct salary costs the used time is worth 54 million euros annually just within the nine examined health care districts. The study identifies this and many other subjects for potential savings through process automation explains the founder and CEO of Digital Workforce Nordic, Heikki Länsisyrjä.

Registering and maintaining patient information is the most time consuming part of health care knowledge work. Doctors spend 160 and nurses 185 minutes of their shift taking care of this one function. Over 70% of doctors and nurses feel that work done on the computer is away from the time spent on patient care.

-Work is becoming more computerized in all sectors. The research confirms our estimate of 300-400 million euros worth of potential savings via automation to exist within public health care. Great savings could be rapidly generated through RPA technologies supporting SOTE reorganization’s target savings of several billions, Länsisyrjä sums up.

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) for better knowledge work efficiency

Digital Workforce Nordic, the organization behind the study is a Finnish growth company offering RPA services. Investors behind the company aiming for international operations include Timo Ahopelto of Lifeline Ventures and Leena Niemistö.
Software robotics offers a prominent solution to automate knowledge work without changes or additional investments to the existing systems. Software robotics is especially applicable to health care industry where many routine rule-based tasks and processes are used. RPA is currently being tested in many public health care organization.

Find the study summary as pdf here.

Hälsningar från Vitalis! – Insider’s look to the largest Nordic eHealth conference

Vitalis, the largest Nordic conference on eHealth gathered in Gothenburg 5.-7.4. This year the event attracted more than 3 200 professionals to discuss the sector’s latest trends and innovations, with the shared aim of improving tomorrow’s health care. The conference offered a valuable opportunity for knowledge building, networking and discussion on how visions can be trans­formed into reality. From the perspective of Digital Workforce it was important to hear the inspirational stories and take part in the conversation.

Our team arrived on location to find The Swedish Exhibition and Congress Centre buzzing with excitement. Digital Workforce was represented by two consultants Iida Myllymäki and our new Swedish addition Kenneth Tellebo. The company was delighted to have recently welcomed Kenneth as our first Swedish consultant with full focus on the local market.

The many well established speakers at Vitalis offered a rare insider’s perspective to prominent trends and unsolved challenges of the Swedish health space. For Digital Workforce the news were intriguing.

Gabriel Wikström the public health minister of Sweden took center stage to describe potential room for improvement, despite successful implementation of eHealth over the years. According to Wikström the government has set some very clear goals for the future.

One challenge mentioned in his speech, was diminishing the difference in health between low-income and high-income women in Sweden. Unfortunately, the difference in life expectancy has increased by a year compared to 15 years ago for the two groups. Secondly, the Swedish government wants to improve their abilities in handling chronic illness as the existing health care system has been designed to best fit treating emergencies and short term problems.

In his role as a public health minister Wikström had been astonished to find that there are so many essential IT systems used that do not communicate with each other. Thus these systems play a key role in enabling health care workers to provide effective care. “Sweden has 100% digital medical journals and 100% digital prescriptions, but the IT systems do not talk to each other. This is identified as a major problem and needs to be dealt with asap. The money and the desire to make it happen exists but now it shall be produced!”, Wikström encouraged.

To combat existing issues the minister announced a government investment worth SEK 1 billion directed to public health care’s immediate needs. The three main goals of the investment were improving eHealth systems, minimising unnecessary administration and securing access to new personnel.

Similar thoughts were articulated by Elena Bonfiglioli, Microsoft Worldwide’s Health Director. She pointed out in her presentation that the third most commont cause of death (after heart failure and cancer) was a brakedown in communication or collaboration between health care systems. According to the Microsoft director we should see technology as a service enableing better health care. Ït is not WHO that matters when it comes to technical solutions but the implementation, the HOW”.

It is exciting to recognise the potential of robotics in supporting the Swedish Government’s plans, for the future development of the public health care. As depicted in Wikström’s speech, the opportunities that lie in improving efficiency and enabling communications between systems have been recognized in Sweden. We predict that Robotic Process Automation (RPA) technologies will be increasingly used to enhance both work efficiency and communications across systems to solve the current challenges.