How Health-Tracking Robots Are Being Used in the Battle Against COVID-19
David Neo is global services leader for the Asia Pacific (APAC) region at UiPath.
As the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) swept across Wuhan, China, sickening scores of residents and pushing hospitals in the Hubei province city to breaking point, the Chinese authorities pulled off the unthinkable. Makeshift hospitals, each built within days, sprung up quickly to ease the patient load.
One 1,600-bed pop-up hospital was completed in just 12 days. The engineering marvel opened on February 8, 2020 in an abandoned parking lot. But within the hospital, staff had to rely mostly on a manual system for administrative work, which further strained the limited manpower.
Related read: Clearing the Epidemic of Healthcare Backlogs with Automation
With more than 1,000 patients to monitor around the clock, it was impossible for doctors to sift through reams of notes daily. So, UiPath worked with local Chinese partner Wuhan Shuhu to develop a 24-hour online platform that gave the 2,500 medical workers in the hospital quick access to each patient’s latest condition through a database.
Launched on February 27, 2020, the platform allows healthcare staff to download a report on the patient or key in a different date to check a specific day’s report. The 5G technology also enables images and other data to be transmitted quickly between hospitals, allowing doctors to consult their counterparts in other cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou.
“Being based in Wuhan, the impact felt here is particularly deep. We went from pain to despair and then to hope,” said Yafei Wang, general manager at Wuhan Shuhu. “Through this platform, we hope to free up the doctors and nurses so that patients and their families can be even more well taken care of.”
Given our expertise in Robotic Process Automation (RPA), UiPath also teamed up with partners across the Asia Pacific (APAC) region to design solutions for various organizations during the pandemic. This includes helping companies keep tabs on their employees’ health.
At the height of the COVID-19 outbreak in China, people were still traveling in droves. This posed a serious problem for companies and health workers, who grappled with how to track people’s health.
To contain the spread of the disease, returning travelers had to be tested for the virus and contact tracing done when new cases appeared. Who went where, who came into contact with whom, and who was ill were all pertinent questions that became more pressing as the number of cases swelled and severe measures were put in place.
The simplest way to capture information such as temperature, symptoms, and location is through RPA. In workplaces with thousands of employees, capturing that information would be difficult to do manually, but a software robot makes the job a cinch. So, we worked with our partners to develop free solutions across the region.
In South Korea, we worked with our partners—IT company LG CNS and software firm TOBESOFT—and created a robot to track the health of employees working in enterprises and public institutions. Employees receive a health survey to complete at a certain time every day through the KakaoTalk messenger, which will also automatically send a reminder to those who have not complete the survey.
The bot categorizes employees into one of three severity levels and imposes a self-quarantine based on the severity, including sending a message to stay home. These employee names will be automatically delivered to the heads of departments or team leaders.
“I've heard that there are people who call hundreds of suspected cases a day to check their health. To reduce their burden as much as possible, we are distributing this automation robot free of charge,” said Kim Dong-wook, CEO of UiPath Korea.
Read more: RPA and COVID-19: How Software Robots Are Helping Companies Put Employee Health First
In Australia, automation consultant Blackbook.ai designed a virtual assistant to help health professionals deal with an overwhelming amount of contact tracing – a method that has also been hailed as the key reason countries like Singapore have managed to prevent a huge outbreak.
Previously, health professionals had to individually contact people and places who have been exposed to infected patients, which took a lot of time. The data collected also identifies frequently visited places, dates and times to produce hot spots in real time.
Today, a robot processes all the information and finds peoples' contact numbers for nurses to call and ask relevant questions, which are also recorded. This ensures a seamless contact tracing procedure that can be scaled as nurses’ time is freed up from manually searching through endless lists of phone numbers.
But RPA is not just convenient – it’s also fast. Chinese partner Shanghai Today more than doubled the data collection speed through its Daily Health Survey Robot for key customers in the early stages of the crisis.
“Rolling out the solution for free is our way of contributing to society during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some companies might not be so familiar with RPA technology, but seeing how it helps conduct health surveys, users can see how other work processes can also be improved with RPA,” said Wenchao Zhang, general manager at Shanghai Today Cloud.
Find out how other businesses around the world are using automation to address drastic shifts in demand due to COVID-19.
China has lifted travel restrictions on most of Hubei province two months after their lockdown while much of the world is still grappling with the pandemic. As long as COVID-19 remains a threat, we’re working with companies to find innovation solutions to the coronavirus pandemic together. We’re here to help. Contact us if you would like to partner with us or share with us how your organization is using automation to help in these extraordinary times.
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