Healthcare players struggle with high costs, intense patient expectations, and stringent regulations. Many providers also wrestle with high volumes as their business grows post-pandemic. As a result, their quality of service takes a hit.
Healthcare organizations must operate in real-time, without any slack or margin for error. Even a few minutes of delay or a slight mistake could mean the difference between life and death.
A majority of healthcare providers continue their old ways as they are reluctant to disrupt a system working at its seams. Most processes impacting the patient-customer are labor-intensive and error-prone. Operational inefficiencies also creep in, leading to overworked and demotivated employees. The result is high operating costs and poor patient outcomes.
The solution to these challenges lies in automation, especially Robotics Process Automation.
What is Robotics Process Automation?
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) applies software-driven robots or ‘bots’ for routine and repetitive tasks. RPA bots perform rule-based, repetitive tasks without human guidance or supervision. They work round-the-clock with impeccable accuracy and consistency and process high volumes in double quick time.
RPA automation works through scripts that define rules and conditions, emulating human actions. It uses Natural Language Processing (NLP), Optical Character Recognition (OCR), speech recognition, and image recognition capabilities to convert unstructured data to a structured form and extract information from it.
Using RPA with Artificial Intelligence (AI) takes automation to the next level. Intelligent Automation (IA) or cognitive automation mimics human talent and actions, analyzes data, and provides decision-makers with insights to make informed decisions.
Boosting operational efficiency
The most significant impact of deploying RPA bots in healthcare is efficiency improvements. Improving efficiency reduces costs and enhances the quality of service.
Each process in the healthcare industry involves substantial paperwork. Inducting new patients, scheduling appointments, making emergency admissions, documenting patient history, filing insurance claims, and other day-to-day tasks are data intensive. Healthcare facilities maintain an army of administrative staff to perform these tasks. Alternatively, nurses and doctors waste their valuable time on paperwork.
In either case, manual processing is laborious, fallible, and inefficient. The human attention span does not allow focusing on the same thing with the same intensity after a while, and it is natural for productivity to dip. Errors and omissions also sneak in.
RPA automates these processes. Bots mimic human actions but perform as instructed without any dip in intensity. Work gets done fast, round the clock, at a consistent, predictable pace, and with improved accuracy. What took human agents hours of back-breaking work gets done in minutes or even seconds. Bots also consume only a fraction of the energy and resources used by humans.
RPA bots fill up forms, extract data, move files, and perform other rule-based jobs. In a healthcare scenario, it automates tasks such as:
- Scheduling and rescheduling appointments. Intelligent RPA bots analyze data to identify symptoms and fix appointments. RPA streamlines the process by logging in patient details, sending reminders, and issuing tokens. The bots also reschedule appointments as needed after considering doctor availability. Hospitals using RPA reduced the time to schedule appointments by 30%. The faster and more streamlined process reduced the number of no-shows by 10%, further boosting efficiency.
- Patient onboarding. Bots create or update electronic health records. It collects patient information, including medical data, insurance information, and demographics.
- Rules-based decision-making automates billing. The accuracy provided by bots minimizes billing errors.
- Insurance preauthorization and claims. RPA bots submit and follow up on requests for prior authorization for procedures. AI-powered bots identify and resolve submission inconsistencies, reducing the risk of rejection. The accuracy and speed that bots offer result in faster processing and shorter claim cycles. Hospitals using RPA to automate insurance claims processing reduce claims processing time by 20% and errors by 15%.
- Discharge instructions. RPA bots deliver discharge and medication guidelines. It informs patients on follow-up tests and appointments. Bots communicate automatically with the patient and other involved stakeholders through auto-generated messages.
- Administrative tasks. RPA automates most data entry and database management tasks. For example, the bots update and retrieve patient records and onboard new employees.
Ensuring process integrity
Most healthcare establishments handle huge volumes of patient data. Manual handling of such data leads to errors and inconsistencies. RPA handles large volumes of data accurately and securely. The 100% consistency demonstrated by bots makes processes accurate and ensures system integrity.
- Improves the accuracy and consistency of processes. Bots follow preset rules and do not deviate from the set procedure. It also enables the setting of range-bound or auto-populated form fields, to reduce the risks of mistakes or deviations.
- Streamlines processes. One notable example is infection control. Bots execute protocols such as managing triage tasks, screening, and ensuring regulatory compliance. The other routine activities handled by RPA such as managing inventory and patient flow also find use in infection control.
One of the biggest challenges many healthcare providers face is data interoperability.
Interoperability has become inevitable to stay compliant and meet customer expectations. But most healthcare operators use separate software for patients, records, and practitioners. Multiple databases lead to data silos and integration issues.
Also, most older establishments, have grown organically. Over time, different departments and teams set up databases and structures independently. Soon a maze of disparate systems and silos emerges. Data sharing and exchange become complicated.
Healthcare facilities face a big challenge in modernizing their systems to ensure interoperability. Connecting legacy systems with the later interoperable systems needs structural changes to the existing data.
Combining RPA and AI helps healthcare facilities overcome such hurdles.
RPA bots facilitate:
- Smooth data integration from disparate sources and formats. Automated data extraction from multiple sources improves speed and reduces data errors. AI detects data inconsistencies and resolves discrepancies.
- Easy information gathering. AI-powered chatbots and voice bots ensure an accurate and uninterrupted flow of information. Patients and healthcare staff may engage with these AI-powered bots to generate their requests. The intelligent bots scour through different databases and present the requested information.
- More powerful analytics. The analytics engine aggregates patient data, including the latest diagnosis and history. The improved insights unearth patterns and enable better treatment plans.
The efficacy of healthcare professionals depends on access to real-time and relevant data. Healthcare facilities must also promptly respond to patient requests for electronic health information. Overworked agents fail to generate reports on time. There is also the risk of errors.
RPA’s ability to gather and analyze vast amounts of data quickly makes it a valuable tool for decision-making and reporting.
RPA bots extract data from various sources to a centralized console and process it for optimal report usage.
- Curate the data into a standard format and organize it into a presentable format very quickly.
- Collect missing information from patients, insurance companies, and other stakeholders.
- Prepare and ingest documents into a larger repository. Digitizing health records such as insurance claims makes processing easier and faster.
- Generate instant reports in the desired formats. RPA facilitates real-time reporting to keep all stakeholders informed and engaged. Doctors and other decision-makers get real-time data such as patients’ responsiveness to treatment, background information, etc., in intuitive dashboards. This enables them to make quicker, well-informed decisions.
- Enable predictive analytics. Decision-makers rely on such insights for strategic planning and resource allocation. The data collected by the bots allow the analytic engine to predict the time a patient will spend at the hospital, the expected number of outpatients on any given day, the volumes of medicines and supplies needed, and so on.
Better regulatory compliance
Healthcare is a heavily regulated industry. Enterprises in the healthcare space have to adhere to several laws and regulations. Maintaining compliance manually is a daunting task, and places enterprises at risk of back-breaking fines.
The most notable compliance mandate in the US is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). HIPAA lays down stipulations to ensure data privacy and safety. Violating HIPAA can result in hefty penalties ranging from $100 to $50,000 per violation. The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH Act) of 2009 mandates healthcare providers to notify patients when assailants breach their health information. It also increases the penalties for HIPAA violations. Agencies such as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Food and Drug Administration, and most state and local regulatory bodies impose other compliance requirements on healthcare businesses.
Read more: https://suyati.com/blog/rpa-can-help-your-business-emerge-stronger-after-covid-19/
In the European Union, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) governs the processing of personal data, including health data. The act requires healthcare entities to protect patients’ data and also inform them how they will use such data. Patients also have the right to access and erase their data.
Almost all regulators mandate stringent protocols and reporting. The efficacy of compliance depends on the accuracy, consistency, and protection of records. RPA provides such accuracy and consistency.
RPA bots improve governance and regulatory compliance by:
- Automating tasks related to compliance. Compliance-related tasks become consistent and accurate, eliminating the risk of human errors. For instance, the bots can inform patients on how the healthcare facility uses their data, to comply with the GDPR.
- Collecting detailed logs and generating accurate audit reports. AI-powered bots identify and alert healthcare professionals about potential compliance issues.
- Generating compliance reports. RPA bots gather information to create reports and submit them to regulatory agencies. Such reporting also boosts internal compliance.
- Keeping stakeholders updated. Compliance is not static. Rules and regulations change with time, forcing enterprises to alter their compliance-fulfilling processes. But keeping track of such changes is a herculean task. Any slip-ups lead to compliance violations and costly fines. RPA bots can scrape policymakers’ websites to extract news about regulations. These bots update the compliance regulation data in an organization’s internal regulation databases.
Cybersecurity is an issue plaguing most enterprises today, including healthcare. The implications of a cyberattack on healthcare databases can ruin a business.
RPA has become an integral part of cyber defense.
- Logs every action, offering organizations a 100% accurate audit trail when compliance or data breaches arise.
- Reduce the risk of user account compromises and insider threats. Deploying secure RPA bots reduce the need for human users with privileged access. Lesser the logins, the lesser the risks.
- Flags threats. AI-powered bots log into systems, compare the existing processes to the ideal state, and flag deviations. Such deviations could indicate undetected errors or even fraud. The bots generate alerts to detect unusual patterns. It can also trigger prompt countermeasures to nip the issue in the bud.
- Monitor data for anomalies. RPA bots also monitor data flow through the network and flag data loss. The rule-based program may automatically apply preset protocols to block access and plug the leak.
- Automate audits for better internal controls.
Customer service and remote care
Many healthcare professionals apply RPA to automate customer service and remote care activity. RPA bots follow business rules to deliver specific communications at certain steps in the patient care plan.
Robotic Process Automation automates communications. It takes over responses to website inquiries and first-line customer service calls. It can also undertake email blasts to patients about tips and reminders. RPA streamlines patient onboarding and greater visibility into the process to keep the patient informed.
- Advise patients on the cost of procedures, treatments, and payment plans.
- Personalize the customer experience by understanding patient preferences and guiding healthcare providers accordingly.
- Enable self-service. Bots allow patients to schedule appointments, get prescriptions, and process several other tasks.
Research and development
Healthcare firms engaged in research and development use RPA bots to collect data and strengthen analytics. Bots gather and cleanse data from a wide array of sources, and automate tasks such as sample preparation, simulation, modeling, and more.
Researchers use bots for innovative use cases related to:
- Drug discovery, to discover drug formulas for specific diseases.
- Drug testing, to curate digital representations of human organs, genomes, and cells.
- To enhance patient testing machines like X-rays, MRIs, and scans, for accurate lab diagnosis.
Improved workforce productivity
So where do all these leave human agents? Automating repetitive and routine tasks frees healthcare professionals from non-value-adding paperwork. The quality of work improves, improving job satisfaction. They get the time to engage in challenging tasks that do justice to their cognitive abilities. Such talented staff remain in the company, saving the enterprise on HR costs. The availability of experienced staff improves healthcare quality, further benefiting patients.
The HR would have their tasks cut out, though. The demand for administrative staff providing typing and clerical tasks would reduce. The enterprise would either have to let go of such employees or reskill them for higher cognitive level tasks.
While robotics process automation offers many benefits, there are also several challenges.
The initial cost of RPA technology is high. A single software bot costs anywhere between $5,000 and $15,000. But with the enormous benefits it brings, enterprises can recoup their investments quickly. The Institute for RPA estimates RPA solutions deliver up to 40% savings in labor costs alone. There have been instances where healthcare companies have saved up to 80% of their administrative costs.
Enterprises that implement RPA also have to face resistance to change. RPA implementation can render many lower-level jobs obsolete and force changes in job profiles. Employees shaken out of their cozy ecosystems will resist the change. Enterprises need champions to lead from the front and convince the rank and file of the benefits and the inevitability of implementing RPA.
The most significant challenge, however, is technical expertise. The shortage of talent is rife in the tech industry. Getting competent project managers to implement RPA is difficult, even for a good pay package. Healthcare businesses would do well when they partner with tech companies that have competent employees.
RPA automation accelerates digital transformation in the healthcare industry. The use cases now are just the tip of the iceberg, though. RPA opens up new realms of possibilities in healthcare and has the potential to reshape healthcare service delivery.
Read more: https://suyati.com/blog/rpa-for-healthcare/
The use of robotics process automation is ever-increasing. The market size of RPA in the healthcare industry will grow to USD 6.9 Billion in 2030 with a CAGR of 26.01%. Gartner estimates that “50% of US healthcare providers will invest in RPA in the next three years”. Using RPA the right way strengthens business operations, reduces legal issues, and saves companies time and money.
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