Hospital and Council start to test AI in undertaking tasks, as ‘virtual workers’

Ipswich Hospital, part of East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust (ESNEFT) has engaged three robots over the past three months to mimic keyboard and mouse clicks, to assist with routine admin referrals, using ‘virtual workers’.  Handling 2,000 referrals on average per week, this has saved the Trust considerable costs and increased efficiency amongst frontline staff.

• Tasks have included sending scan and blood test results from Primary Care GPs to Secondary Care hospital consultants, with intelligent automation supplied by British software company Thoughtonomy. This works over the existing applications and systems as part of the GP Electronic Referral Service (where patient data is collected and sent to the relevant consultant).

• Initial results claim the new system is eight times more productive than using humans, releasing 500 hours of medical secretaries’ time, working 24×7 and anticipated to save £220,000 over the next nine months. The referral process has been seen to successfully reduce down the referral process from 15-20 minutes, to 5 minutes.

Darren Atkins Deputy Director of ICT, commented, “At the Trust we have a philosophy of making time matter”.   Mr Atkins continued: “Done to scale, intelligent automation has the capacity to massively drive transformation on a huge scale within the NHS.”

Neurology department medical secretary, Christine Harvey added:  “We used to extract information from (patient records) from one bit of software and put it into another bit of software. This was time consuming and carried the risk of mistakes from the patient notes system”.

The technology has been received positively at the hospital, offering flexibility from ‘virtual buddies’, maximising the benefit of automation and enabling frontline staff to spend more quality time with patients and on workload, be more productive and enabled the Trust to cut down on short term agency use.  Technically, the queues and productivity can also be monitored very easily on the move through smart devices.  The scheme has the capability to be extended to using AI ‘staff’ to make appointments and do accounting and patient queries.

A report by the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) states that automation could save the NHS up to £12.5bn a year, or 10 per cent of its annual budget.  The Department for Health identified that the NHS’ infrastructure was “not currently fit for purpose for AI” and would require standardising to fully harness the technology’s potential.  A move in this direction however is clearly signalled as a route to improvement and cost savings for the NHS.

Dr. Bernhard Kainz at the Department of Computing at Imperial College London said: “At the moment the NHS has still an IT problem rather than a data science or AI opportunity.. and rather, it marks an important step towards clinical decision making supported by AI because it makes sparse, unstructured data accessible for automated data processing”.

Meanwhile, in a bid to improve transformation of social care through technology, Bradford Council is in the process of developing a proof of concept for an AI tool in adult social care, funded by NHS Digital and the Local Government Association.  Bradford, working with Rescon Technologies has designed the relevant service requirements which take on board matters as diverse as dental care, financial matters and watching football.  The findings of the project will be known in December and decisions on how to take matters further determined at that time with stakeholders.

For an understanding of the core distinctions between IT transformation and Digital Transformation and routes of developmental interest for the public sector, read Amicus ITS’ latest White Paper here.

If you would like to discuss this with a member of the Sales department, please contact Amicus ITS on 02380 429429

Major G-Cloud 10 Government Technology Services Win for Amicus ITS

Amicus ITS’ G-Cloud 10 team (L-R): JP Norman, Lindsay Burden, Les Keen and Ben Davis

Official Crown Commercial Supplier Amicus ITS, has scored a notable success with the announcement that the Company has had a record total of 17 cloud technology services accepted onto the UK Government’s G-Cloud framework.

This framework, run by the Government’s Crown Commercial Service, provides a central, transparent and pre-compliant portal for public sector and healthcare organisations across England and Wales to procure wide ranging technology solutions, in confidence, using trusted partners – and saving money for the taxpayer. G-Cloud 10 went live on 2nd July.

The project was overseen by Marketing Manager, Lindsay Burden. “We only had five weeks to select and complete all 17 cloud service listings. G-Cloud 10 is a very pure form of procurement for our public sector customers and a great compliment to the services listed in our Service Catalogue. We recognised in 2017 that we needed to extend our Managed Services and we have done this by strengthening our inhouse teams and forging strong alliances with leading technology experts. These include Netwrix, Authlogics and Think Marble in the security sector, our sister back up specialist company Curatrix Technologies, as well as key Government UK hosting provider UKCloud. We are all thrilled that we’ve had 100% success with this project with all 17 services being approved. It really shows the depth of what we can deliver today”.

Sales Director Les Keen commented: “Amicus ITS has a host of public sector and NHS customers throughout England so we know the pressures they face. Our experienced Bid Team in Sales & Marketing, work across a variety of IT frameworks. The G-Cloud 10 framework is a perfect example of the private sector bringing best-in-market technology and support to work in partnership with the public sector to bring about efficiencies and positive change to a cash-strapped sector. With Brexit fast approaching, there has never been a more important time for public sector organisations to have trusted routes to procurement offering transparency and confidentiality. Many bodies are grappling with legacy IT infrastructures and trying to keep pace with the day-to-day tasks and ‘keeping the lights on’ and their data secure. They are time short and often in need of outside expert help to create the right solutions. Our new managed cloud service offerings include a raft of security services and some are run in conjunction with key specialist technology partners. Our services can be selected at will and have the potential to release inhouse IT teams to focus on project work, knowing their IT is in safe hands with us”.

The cloud services Amicus ITS is launching on G10 include:

Cloud Support Services

• Service Desk as a Service
• Network Operations Centre – NOC
• SQL Database Administration
• Cloud Backup and Disaster Recovery
• Cloud Readiness Assessment Consultancy
• Modern Workplace – Microsoft 365
• Security Operations Centre – SOC
• Virtual CISO
• IT Security – Risk Assessment Consultancy
• Password Compliance & Authentication Service
• Compliance as a Service
• Virtual Data Protection Officer – DPO
• Cyber Threat Management – Enterprise
• Internal Vulnerability Scanning Service
• Penetration Testing

Cloud Hosting

• Multi-Cloud for VMWare OFFICIAL (Assured)
• Disaster Recovery as a Service – DRaaS

All service details can be viewed directly at https://www.digitalmarketplace.service.gov.uk/g-cloud

Just type in Amicus ITS to see the range of services, support information and prices.

Members of the bid team are on hand to answer any enquiries on G-Cloud 10 on 02380 429429. Alternatively, enquiries can be emailed to bidteam@amicusits.co.uk

Who’s My Mum? Our Ami Bot Throws Up Some Challenges


Following our first Bot blog on 23rd March which marked the start of our ‘Ami’ Bot chatbot journey, we find ourselves deep in talks off the back of discovery  and  as we explore what the technology can offer.  We are also asking ourselves some crunch questions about what precisely we want out of the Bot for the business.  This will continue, but views are starting to form.

Ami has thrown up a number of questions and challenges from our lead technical and architecture stakeholders in the Bot project’s team.   As a tech firm, some might regard it as an automatic shoe-in for us just to add the Bot simply as an additional cloud option for customers and visitors using our web portal.  However, it has to be right for the business, whatever the technology and right for purpose – and certainly before any costs are incurred.

A key question that arose in recent discussions centred on our technology.  We needed to check what the structure map was around our infrastructure and ITSM toolsets.  Our Service Desk toolset doesn’t come with a baked in chatbot which would have made things simpler, but it was an important exercise as a reminder and a review point for our chatbot options, which led to some positive API additions.  Our lead Technical Design Authority, Julian Green has taken time to investigate different Bot frameworks and potential options for consideration.  Being a largely Microsoft house, Amicus ITS has ready access to the Microsoft Bot framework.  However, whilst the set up would be very fast, that would still require substantial input as it developed.  Julian has also investigated the option for us of using IBM Watson as the backbone for the Bot.  Both of these options would require substantial input from our technical team and that is where the conundrum lies, as that route could tie up valuable resource.  We’ve also engaged with some market leading suppliers with off the shelf options.  These might be a more effective route for Ami as a Sales bot for us.

Either way, it has to be technically right to introduce into our portfolio of toolset service options and it has to feel right, so it’s a benefit not a hindrance for anyone to have a conversation with Ami.  We know we need a Sales bot at this stage, as a Service bot is a step too far that we are not ready for, but it remains the goal on the distant horizon.

So in terms of where we are today, I think we are on the verge of agreeing the right route on how to make Ami (metaphorically), which hopefully the Board can agree on in June. Then the project team can start to build on the content for the FAQs to respond to sales enquiries.  Plus, we have some general housekeeping to review.  We need to interrogate the existing routes, including email addresses etc., through which organisations engage with us – as it looks like there are some we no longer use.  If we tidy things up, we may see our Reception and Business Services resource time being used more efficiently in the first place, enabling greater focus on the right enquiries.  Using technology to work smarter.  Sounds good.  Above all, we want Ami when she joins us to become popular and user friendly, helping direct people usefully AND managing user expectations too.

Ami is causing us to re-evaluate what we do and how.  We will have taken a meaningful step if we can serve our customers more intelligently and flexibly – not only using joined up technology, but also joined up thinking behind the scenes from Board to floor.   Change can be hard for any business.   Our plans for a soft GoLive in July with Ami Sales bot were perhaps a bit too ambitious on reflection given our gap in knowledge and working implementation.   But I have no doubt that following our numerous discussions, research and conversations with experts, that we are heading in the right direction.  We just have to get over Ami’s toddler stage and commit to holding her by the hand.

 

‘Orangeworm’ the new superworm hacking group that’s targeting healthcare

Hacking activity targeting the healthcare sector continues to rise.  New security research just released by Symantec has identified a global hacking group called ‘Orangeworm’.  Though its targeted victims accounted for a small number of organisations in 2016 and 2017 (mostly in the USA and Asia), some were identified as being based in Europe.  Analysis by industry has revealed that the healthcare sector is Orangeworm’s primary target, with 39% of hacking outcomes manifesting themselves in this data rich sector which includes hospitals and pharmacies.

Symantec said, “Based on the list of known victims, Orangeworm does not select its targets randomly or conduct opportunistic hacking. Rather, the group appears to choose its targets carefully and deliberately, conducting a good amount of planning before launching an attack”.

Orangeworm’s wormable trojan, named ‘Kwampirs’ is able to vet the data to determine if the computer is used for research, or contains high value data targets eg. patient information.  The Kwampirs then create a backdoor on compromised computers, enabling the hackers to remotely access equipment and steal sensitive data – and Orangeworm survives reboots.

The trojan worm has a penchant for machine software on critical hospital equipment which includes kit like x-ray machines and MRI scanners, as well as machines used to assist patients in completing consent forms.  If the ‘victim’ computer is of interest, the malware then “aggressively” spreads itself across open network shares to infect other computers within the same organisation and uses built-in commands to grab data. This includes “any information pertaining to recently accessed computers, network adapter information, available network shares, mapped drives, and files present on the compromised computer.”

The supply chain is a key part of this vulnerability funnel, with targets including manufacturers providing medical devices and technology companies offering services to clinics, plus logistics firms delivering healthcare products.

Director of Technology, Security & Governance, JP Norman advises:  “Ensure your anti-malware provider can detect Kwampirs activity and to prevent and detect an infection, ensure that:

•        A robust program of education and awareness training is delivered to users to ensure they don’t open attachments or follow links within unsolicited emails.
•        All operating systems, anti-virus and other security products are kept up-to-date.
•        All day-to-day computer activities such as email and internet are performed using non-administrative accounts.
•        Strong password policies are in place and password reuse is discouraged.
•        Network, proxy and firewall logs should be monitored for suspicious activity.
•        User accounts accessed from affected devices should be reset on a clean computer.”

Sales Director, Les Keen added, “Where there is the option for healthcare / supply chain organisations to prioritise IT funding, updating the Operating Systems is a primary, as is ensuring a strong and regular policy on Patch Management.  Our Sales and Security teams  are always on hand to review and audit organisational IT infrastructure and offer holistic remediation advice as part of our security readiness programmes.  Just call us on +44 2380 429429”.

 

Take Up For GP Online Services Hits 42% rise YOY in 2018

With 1 million patients now using the NHS every 36 hours, the pressure is firmly on the nation’s healthcare system to cope with an increased, ageing population, more complex medical conditions being treated, increased waiting time for treatment and more ingenious medicine which is keeping people alive for longer.  Tie that to Brexit and the drive for a 7 day service against today’s staffing pressures and you can see a perfect storm brewing.

Enter then, Health Minister Jeremy Hunt and reflect on his 5 Year Forward View for the NHS. Published in 2015, he laid out his vision for a gradual but persistent transition to patient power – in which digital technology would play a central role.  This was expanded on with his appointment of digital guru Martha Lane Fox to identify four key changes to map out a digital NHS for everyone.  Her stated targets included the following:

o  To reach the furthest first and leave nobody behind
o  To provide free WiFi for all throughout the NHS
o  To build the skills of NHS staff to support people’s needs in the digital age
o  To boost take up of online GP services

So it’s exciting three years on to hear good news coming from NHS Digital’s Leeds HQ. Their latest figures show patient registration take up for secure GP online services in England has risen sharply.  Nearly 14 million patients are now going to their GP’s online for a variety of NHS services without the need to visit a surgery or phoning the practice. These include:

•  Booking appointments
•  Ordering repeat prescriptions
•  Patients view their own records

The figure of 14 million patients is up 42% on February 2017 and amounts to a total of 24% of patients in England now being registered.

For the GP surgeries in local communities who have taken the plunge to embrace technology and overcome initial reservations in parts, these digital pioneers are now reaping the benefits from a variety of online GP cloud service providers.  The results are significant time savings for both the staff and practice GPs, fewer ‘no shows’ and improved patient awareness as patients become more knowledgeable about long term conditions.  The net benefit is derived because GPS have integrated the online public service with single source information clinical systems like EMIS and SystmOne.

There will always rightly need to be a hawkish attitude around protecting sensitive data, however if these new online systems are well governed and securely managed, the public that take up this offer can enjoy a degree of ownership of their healthcare data in intelligent partnership with their GPs and healthcare providers – and in so doing, feel good too they are contributing to improving NHS service efficiencies in the 21st Century.

Bots – Amicus ITS dips its toes in the art of conversation with our baby bot ‘Ami’

  

At Amicus ITS, with Spring looming at last, we are considering taking our first baby steps to explore the world of smart bot technology.  Developing a bot as a new route of engagement and communication is an experiment, demanding fresh thinking, analysis, reflection and nurture from us all.  We are up for the challenge.  However, just because Amicus ITS is a tech firm and IT solution provider, there’s no assumption that the route to adoption is a given.  It needs to be a positive compliment alongside our existing customer service.  Our baby bot, affectionately christened Amicus ‘Ami‘ by one of our Sales team, will have to prove herself, not just by being a smart technology, but by developing a good working vocabulary.  Her first words we hope will focus on helping customers with general sales enquiries before she has any chance of graduating to anything grander.

Why develop a bot?

The potential for AI in customer service is twofold. With machine learning and Neural Linguistic Programming it can seamlessly give customers the right information they need at the right time by offering self-service options and eliminating the need for a call to a service centre. Secondly, AI has the potential to give customer service representatives more information to help them handle the complicated issues that self-service cannot resolve.

Our instincts to start this journey now in our business lifecycle are borne out by the latest statistics.  At this week’s #MarketingExpo at London’s Excel, chatbots were trending as a key topic of conversation.  34% of call centres in the UK are stated as using AI now, with the expectation that this will rise to 68% by the end of 2018.

The human bit

How we as people communicate and our responses to different types of engagement, is fundamental to the art of good conversation and we have to seek to provide a great customer experience with Ami.  Yielding positive results in a customer’s interactions with a business through a bot has commercial potential in the long term.  But for now, it’s all about getting it right.   We know that a bot should not pretend to be a person.  If we can ensure Ami provides provide relevant information, answers and signposts for you, some of you will enjoy trying this route of enquiry.  But there will always be our people too, alongside and behind Ami, always on hand 24×365 to help support you in every way we can.

B2B

Having a bot in a B2B environment is perhaps less straightforward than if we were in the retail trade. However, there is as much opportunity to make a difference if we do this well.  Amy will need to become customer savvy if she’s to make a difference and be welcomed as part of our service family.  We are keen for our bot not to be a turn off and we would love to include you in helping raise this tech child!  There will be a feedback option built in to the platform when it’s launched in a few months time.  If you do choose to comment, you will help in our education too!  So, watch this space for news as we look forward to becoming a digital parent to this disruptive technology child.   What do you think of bots?   Let’s start the conversation!

 

Warning to UK Public Sector about leaky Amazon Web Services

Amazon Web Services (AWS) are currently in the news for all the wrong reasons.  Their Simple Storage Servers (S3) – known as ‘buckets’ – have been successfully targeted by hackers.  The AWS servers have been found to be alarmingly leaky, enabling the new Buckhacker search engine tool to readily access unsecured sensitive data.

AWS, as one of the UK Government’s chosen cloud service providers (GOV.UK PaaS) runs from AWS in Ireland (a UK-based hosting centre is planned for 2018) and is accredited for handling personal and confidential information classified at ‘Official’ level.

Users are able to search either by ‘bucket’ name, which may typically include the name of the company or organisation using the server, or by filename. The service collects bucket names, grabs the bucket’s index page, analyses the results and stores it in a database for others to search.  There are other tools like AWSBucketDump and according to the hackers exposed buckets can also be trawled for rich pickings with a specific Google Search.

Created by anonymous hackers, a Buckhacker developer commented:  “The purpose of the project is to increase the awareness on bucket security, too many companies were [sic] hit for having wrong permissions on buckets in the last years”.

Clearly, it is in the public sector’s interests not to risk exposure of any sensitive data (theirs or the public’s) and thus a prime consideration for any public sector organisation is to scrutinise the credentials, security performance and sovereignty badge protections of their chosen cloud provider.  Public sector organisations struggle to find funding in already tight IT budgets to defend against cyber attack, but with so many different lines of attack facing them, IT managers are having to take a risk-based approach to identify where to allocate their limited funds.

Amicus ITS Director of Technology, Security & Governance JP Norman commented:   It is worth remembering that the security of the data, no matter where it resides is the responsibility of the Data Controller in each organisation. There are ways to provide security assurance in the cloud layer that conform to the basics of Cyber Essentials. Furthermore, the right partner organisation, such as Amicus ITS, can act as a cloud broker providing proven security assurance recommendations and actions to mitigate such risks.

At Amicus ITS, we are happy to challenge the status quo as we brand ourselves are the safe pair of hands for our customers.  So with any digital transformation journey we will ensure intelligent, joined up thinking to ensure our Security and Governance views chime with those of our technical architects and sales professionals.