Robotic Process Automation is simply a computer programme, or script, that runs in the background to automate a task or set of tasks that had previously been done by a person through a series of keystrokes.
The computer programme code runs in the cloud, often referred to as the robot, or ‘bot’. The computer programme is sometimes called ‘Process Automation’, which removes the misconception that robots are an inherent part of this technology.
In the NHS, RPA can be used in clinical and non-clinical settings to automate administrative tasks performed by clinicians or non-clinicians. A number of real example case studies are described below.
Automation can be enhanced with other features, such as character recognition and translation services.
Is RPA safe?
RPA is a computer programme and will therefore run a set of instructions and then stop. It has no ability to action anything that isn’t written into the computer programme, and RPA scripts will include instructions on what to do should certain conditions be met. It is therefore specified and controlled and would be implemented following testing and validation.
For example, automating the finance process of emailing debt reminders to customers would require the following steps as illustrated below:
This script could be set to run monthly. It would not need any human intervention unless there were system changes, such as a new password for the report system, or a requirement for the final report to be sent to a different email address. In this scenario, the script would be paused, updated, tested and validated and then re-activated.
An automated process may require a login and password, which would be securely stored in line with NHS cybersecurity and Information Governance requirements.
As RPA scripts don’t involve humans, there is no human error. The script will run repeatedly as required. It doesn’t fatigue, get distracted or suffer from boredom – factors that can lead to human error.