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HSE robot project processing Covid-19 whole genome sequencing results

A surveillance robot project deployed by the HSE for processing Covid-19 data has been developed further “to process Covid-19 whole genome sequencing results and case vaccination data”, this newspaper has been told. In October 2020, the Medical Independent (MI) reported on the robot project deployed by the HSE for Covid-19 data processing. At the time, the HSE said there were plans for the project to be deployed for other respiratory infections during future influenza seasons.

However, a spokesperson told MI that the project will not be deployed during the influenza season and will continue to be used for the ongoing pandemic. “The Covid-19 surveillance robot has not been tested for use on influenza notification processing,” said the spokesperson. “In accordance with pandemic response priorities, the robot has been
developed further to process Covid-19 whole genome sequencing results and case vaccination data….”

According to a report in the September 2020 edition of Epi-Insight, a project team led by the HSE and the Health Protection Surveillance Centre explored the possibility of a robotic solution to relieve some of the burden of Covid-19 data processing. “Through site visits to HSE Departments of Public Health, stakeholder workshops, business process analysis, a set of processing rules were agreed nationally and reference files for hospitals and community care areas were delivered,” outlined the Epi-Insight report.

“The robot was programmed by Deloitte to apply these rules and navigate the CIDR [computerised infectious disease reporting] system by replicating human behaviour.” The live trial results of the project included “a successful degree of automation (ie, the robot could perform the processing just like a human), successful time-saving in processing time and the ability to operate outside of core hours to maximise its benefit”.

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