How RPA is Bridging the Gap between Healthcare delivery, administration & Technology
When it comes to handling high volume, highly-repetitive tasks without human interference, businesses turn to Robotic Process Automation (RPA). And the healthcare industry is no different. According to this research by McKinsey:
“Robotic process automation will reshape healthcare and create between $350 billion and $410 billion in annual value by 2025.”
In this blog, we explore real-world RPA applications in healthcare and highlight its potential for both enterprises and the healthcare community at large.
RPA benefits at both employee and organization level.
1. Benefits for employees and caregivers: If there is one thing that most healthcare professionals dislike, it’s doing mundane manual work, over and over again. Understandably so. This is where software robots (‘bots’) can literally ‘take over’ tedious tasks and free up valuable time for healthcare professionals so that they can focus on their patients. Rather than seeing these automated bots as a means to replace humans, it opens up the opportunity for re-skilling the workforce and repurposing them to focus on more productive activities.
Take the case of Cleveland Clinic, which deployed a robot at their drive-in COVID-19 testing site. The robot was equipped to check if they were new or current patients, register them in the EMR system, and print accurate test labels. Here are the results of using a ‘bot’:
- The robot can complete the entire process in 14-16 seconds.
- The automated process saves 8-9 minutes per patient.
- Using a robot eliminates the chance of manual errors and unforeseen delays which can be expensive and time-consuming.
All in all, the entire testing process is far more streamlined and can be completed faster – both of which are desired outcomes in times of a global pandemic.
2. Benefits for Healthcare Organizations: Navigating the challenges of a pandemic can be crippling for healthcare organizations. More importantly, communicating business-critical notifications – to employees and other stakeholders – takes center stage. RPA can help these organizations in drafting business continuity and contingency communication plans that factor in short- and long-term solutions along with real-time data in a cost-effective manner.
Here’s an interesting real-life application: The U.S government implemented 500 bots to analyze coronavirus-related data so that the public and hospitals at large are kept well-informed and take the necessary precautions and preparatory measures.
Sustainable Healthcare: Where RPA & Digital Transformation Go Hand-in-Hand
Here are more specific use case scenarios –
a. Larger access pool: Due to its universal nature and increased demand, RPA can help serve a larger patient set. Traditional limitations, such as geographic as well as mobility boundaries, become non-existent in such cases.
b. Improved patient engagement: RPA can foster more automated, seamless, and integrated communication channels among patients, providers, health care administrators, and health plans. (More on this later.)
c. Reduced complexity and improved efficiency: Pandemic or not, streamlining data flows in addition to storing and manipulating data is key. For instance, a hospital in Dublin utilizes RPA bots to process testing kits results – saving the Nursing department around 3 hours a day. Given the kind of pressures the hospital staff faces in a crisis, this is not a small feat by any stretch of the imagination.
d. Streamlined authorization process: Imagine a streamlined authorization process where new patients can be onboarded easily. This is possible when healthcare organizations have seamless access to a wealth of knowledge relating to similar past experiences and tailor their services to enhance patient outcomes. As you can imagine, this also provides a much-needed boost to employee morale:
“A higher level of healthcare professionals’ job satisfaction is directly linked not only with better care for the patients but also with higher ROI for the company.” – Craig Richardville
Administrative Healthcare Simplification via Automation: Quick Facts
Here’s a low-down of critical RPA-led administrative healthcare use cases that lay the foundation for qualitative healthcare and by extension, happier patients and healthcare employees:
a. Patient check-in process and appointment scheduling: An unpopular task for healthcare professionals across the globe is tackling and filing mountains worth of paperwork, data, and forms relating to the registration process – that too, on a daily basis. Add to this the time spent in collecting personal, diagnostic, and insurance information for every patient. Enter RPA bots. In a hospital in Cleveland, bots not only accelerate the registration process but also provide help in digging up patient medical records, saving time and energy for everyone involved.
Bots can take into account factors such as diagnosis, location, insurance details, doctor preferences and schedule to make appointments scheduling a breeze. Plus, it encourages self-service and empowers the patients. In short, appointment turnout becomes optimized and offers a boost to the revenue cycle. A win-win for all.
b. Telehealth: Tying back to the point of improved patient engagement, providing telehealth services is a good starting point. That said, during Covid-19, the sheer volume of telehealth requests can become very difficult to monitor manually. So it makes logical sense to digitize the patient triaging and monitoring process during remote encounters. Unsurprisingly, more and more patients are embracing self-diagnosis and opting for telehealth services. A health company deployed a robot to onboard patients on its telehealth platform. As a result, the fully-automated case management process helped “save 3 FTE worth of a clinician’s time every day.”
c. Seamless insurance approvals: Another Herculean task that deserves a special mention is the approval process at Insurance companies for surgical and other critical procedures. RPA can speed up the process, find informational gaps in the logs and details, and avoid back-and-forth from the Insurer to the claimer. In addition, it can help monitor and update outdated data as a result of frequent mandates and regulation changes.
d. Claims generation & submission: Get this: “A digital robot that replaces 5 to 10 human claims processors costs as little as $10,000 to $15,000 a year, which includes license fees, deployment, and maintenance.” Plus, KPMG reports that “As much as 30-40% of healthcare claims don’t comply with official demands.”
Clearly, software robots can be an excellent help here. Rod Dunlap, an RPA practitioner, claims that “Up to 80% of claims and billing can be more effectively processed by the deployment of software robots.” A general hospital in Europe used software robots for 80% of claims and billing. The result? Its processing cost lowered from $4 to $1!
RPA-led Automation Opportunities in Healthcare: Back-office Operations
Managerial and back-office operations can definitely be adapted to a digital interface. In fact, there are greater (and relatively uncharted) opportunities in varying areas of healthcare that can be automated using RPA:
- Delivery and improvement of the care cycle: RPA bots can deliver quality and error-free care management to patients. From providing instant access to Electronic Medical Records and Electronic Health Records to speeding up laboratory test-review tasks and remote test ordering facilities, there’s much that can be achieved if RPA is implemented correctly.
- Healthcare administration: Real-life applications include practice management, billing, data collection, and reconciliation, to name a few.
- Insight-driven research & advanced analytics: Continuous patient and healthcare monitoring are only possible with real-time data collection, constant and accurate sampling, timely medication-prescription, conducting studies on vaccines, accelerating clinical trials, among other things – all of which are specialties of RPA.
- Supply chain operational efficiency: RPA bots can track the inventory details and monitor the requirement of all-important healthcare equipment, thereby improving your supply chain efficiency.
Closing Thoughts: RPA Gets a Clean Bill of Health
In essence, here are the key takeaways:
- RPA is revolutionizing the healthcare industry and optimizing as well as scaling the continuum of care by automating high-volume, routine tasks.
- Paradoxically, using emerging technologies such as RPA can deliver a better customer experience – from individualized and convenience-centred patient care to happier employees.
At this point, it is fair to assume that RPA is a digital transformation catalyst conducive to high-quality, results-oriented healthcare. Plus, its wide-ranging applications are cushioning operational and organizational blows by making things easier and organized for the overburdened healthcare sector – which is exactly the kind of miracle we need and can hope for.
Elvis works with Suyati as a healthcare IT Advisor. He has multifaceted experience in different Healthcare, Cloud Technology, Cybersecurity, Data & Analytics, Process Automation, Agile Software Development, and IT Sourcing. His current focus is on emerging technologies, digital transformation and strategic business-technology alignment.