In 2016, the United States Census Bureau reported that the US healthcare industry is on the verge of a “demographic earthquake” due to an ageing population.
The pandemic has only accelerated the need for timely healthcare services for the aging population since they are at high risk for complications from COVID-19. It has also revealed the wide gaps within the IT healthcare ecosystem, gaps that need to be addressed in order to prevent healthcare systems from collapsing altogether.
A growing number of patients indicate that healthcare providers will have to keep up with large-sized inventory, billing and claims processing, besides high numbers of appointment scheduling and digitization of patient records. The challenge will be to keep all processing seamless, while ensuring that patient pain points are constantly addressed.
The benefits of automation are many. It simplifies insurance approval processes, leading to better outcomes for patients. It also leads to cost savings that can in turn be used for front-line work in healthcare. There are also fewer mistakes with patientcare processes. According to Gartner, due to COVID-19, half of US healthcare providers reportedly plan to invest in RPA technologies in the next 3 years. Only 5% of them have RPA technologies in place today.
While a large number of health-services institutions are still unsure of how AI-powered tools can be incorporated into their systems, the numbers do not lie – according to a recent Accenture analysis, artificial intelligence could create $150 billion in annual savings for the US healthcare economy by 2026. Here’s a look at how AI-backed RPA tools are transforming (and will transform) the way this industry functions:
Managing dynamic customer databases
Healthcare organizations, on a day-to-day basis, collect large quantities of data on patients. These details include appointment schedules, patient health history and current ailment/conditions, transactions, medications and so on. Adding to this is the information that doctors and nurses take down while interacting with the patients, such as their vitals, prescription drug usage, other ailments, etc.
How does incorporating robotic process automation (RPA) into healthcare make sense? RPA helps track all the disparate data and stacks them together for easy access. When each patient’s information is available at the click of a button, it helps medical practitioners make quicker and more effective decisions.
Healthcare seekers, on the other hand, are not completely unaware of how RPA is transforming their lives. Digitization of patients’ hospital records means patients have access to their information such as health reports, billing information and medical histories, besides having the ease of appointment scheduling and timely reminders, all under a unified platform.
There are immense benefits to leveraging RPA for healthcare. A well-established RPA system’s greatest strength lies in its ability to facilitate healthcare organizations to harness the mammoth data residing in their data warehouses. An effective RPA platform extracts information, analyses the data and helps healthcare officials make timely decisions, while meeting their goals based on pre-determined rules.
Impact on healthcare supply chain
Organizations that have identified areas for RPA applications have made holistic improvements to processes and workflows. Like in any other industry, the healthcare sector is gradually experiencing productivity optimization, by reassigning mundane tasks to bots, and redefining work for employees and assigning them to high value activities. The healthcare supply chain has hence felt the impact of RPA, reducing costs and human errors, while improving efficiency and compliance.
Easing claims processing
Claims processing is one of the most monotonous activities that healthcare staff have to perform on a regular basis. Tasks such as patient data and claims management, claims clearing and reporting, remittance management and claims status follow ups take up a good amount of time and can be riddled with inaccuracies and delays. When an RPA system is assigned to claims processing management, the same tasks can be achieved without any hassles, delays and errors.
One aspect of healthcare that is slowly gaining traction is care management. It is the day and age of “taking the doctor home” with you; and powerful RPA systems are behind this tremendous transformation.
RPA streamlines the many workflows involved in care management – coordinating care, promoting wellness, offering remote management – ensuring that patient information remains centralized, while assuring patients that good health care is accessible to them even when they are at home, work or traveling many miles away from their healthcare provider.
Improving the healthcare system
A major impact that RPA has made on the healthcare system is the improvements on a day-to-day scale. With all the information that it stores, churns, analyzes and dispatches, the RPA system learns and improves on itself, and therefore the services offered.
RPA’s ability to speed up tracking progress has had a tremendous impact on the healthcare system, enabling it to become more reliable and accurate. An example is the US Digital Service, which succeeded in modernising its national health insurance programme using RPA. The programme was built around a technology that enables asylum seekers to quickly grant legal documents to the officer. The result? RPA was used to automate a process that takes 4 hours to five minutes! Wherever you apply such RPA uses, the results are bound to be amazing.
Real World Use Cases of RPA in Healthcare
50 Norwegian public hospitals and institutions chose to automate several of their time-consuming but mundane tasks and establish a centralized RPA system. Some of the areas that experienced significant workflow transformation were the maternity wards, tracking and dispatching electronic epicrisis (document that sums up patient medical case history) from hospitals to general practitioners, and access management, among others. These healthcare institutions realized several benefits including saving time, prevention of redundant documentation, increased data quality, privacy, and increased motivation among employees.
There are many other RPA use cases in healthcare. Johns Hopkins Medicine, a leading US health system, launched its AI-powered solutions to combat clinician and caregiver burnout and help them achieve professional goals, besides maximizing engagement. The conversational AI-powered clinical documentation solutions implemented by the healthcare provider aims at fostering better physician productivity and satisfaction, increasing quality metrics for reporting, and enhancing physician-patient interactions by easing the burden of documentation by physicians.
The healthcare industry is plagued by tremendous administrative burdens that slow practitioners and their support system down and negatively impact patient-care related decision-making. RPA tools aid in mitigating these pain points, besides offering additional benefits of cost savings, process efficiencies and optimized patient care and subsequent experience. With better outcomes promised for the entire health-services industry, a majority of healthcare organizations will turn to RPA, sooner than later.
RPA and AI Powered Data Extraction
The biggest benefit of RPA, especially during the COVID-19 crisis, is freeing healthcare professionals from time-consuming administrative hassles, especially when healthcare professionals are needed on the frontline. RPA reduces the time spent on scheduling patient appointments, creating their accounts, verifying them, inventory control, verifying patient information and accounts, and test management.
There is another powerful side to RPA.
While RPA cuts through the mundane, repetitive and time-consuming work in healthcare, it also has tremendous potential to extract data using AI. This is extraction of complex information, and apart from automating workflows, AI-driven RPA can be used for analytical functions and to make better decisions. Cognitive RPA (application of AI into RPA) can analyze medical data from different sources in healthcare. This data includes patient records, diagnoses, business reports, insurance claims, tests, prescriptions, medical histories, and so much more. Automation, by the use of Natural Language Processing functions, can mine data to derive some interesting findings and to drive decision-making in healthcare.
For an organisation to get more done with RPA, it should address these areas:
- A robust backend processing mechanism to mine the data
- Using RPA tools that are equipped to work with recent changes in healthcare processes
- Proper training, good research, key stakeholder education and building strong use cases
- Making sure RPA implementation doesn’t affect the customer experience
- Selecting the right partners, vendors and having a good RPA strategy in place
RPA deployment is crucial for healthcare systems to thrive. It is important that while you use RPA, you need to have KPIs to track its efficacy and to also have clear objectives and roadmaps for implementation. Organisations need to upgrade technology constantly.
Perhaps the biggest threat to implementation of RPA in the healthcare industry is that it can threaten jobs but this is far from the truth. RPA results in more efficient systems, excellent business results, and a collaboration between humans and robots. Robots can automate repetitive and mundane tasks, while the more creative, problem-solving and specialist tasks can be undertaken by humans. In fact in Finland, worker’s job satisfaction increased due to RPA deployment. In the post-pandemic world, RPA in healthcare will play a crucial role and countries that have a robust automated systems in healthcare industries will reap numerous benefits. And this will not be limited just to the aging population.