Automation and RPA are playing an important role in the global healthcare industry, which continues to face significant challenges from wait-listed medical procedures, skills shortages, and an aging population.
The emphasis for healthcare providers is on how to reduce inefficiencies in the delivery of treatments. They must address everything from making appointments to sharing patient data across applications, and from reducing waiting times to managing financial applications more efficiently.
In fact, almost everywhere you look in the healthcare sector, there are opportunities to improve manual and duplicated processes and, crucially, free up healthcare professionals’ time to care for their patients.
The Benefits of Intelligent Automation and RPA
Intelligent automation and RPA combine the power of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to deliver digital workers, which can take mundane tasks away from humans. Digital workers can be trained to retrieve data, enter it into forms and report back on progress with a full audit process in place. For healthcare providers, this can translate into a series of benefits, including:
Back-Office and Operational Efficiency
The complexity of core IT systems leads to high operating costs for healthcare organizations, long wait times for patients, and frustrations for staff. People are used as the glue between systems, transferring data with printouts and rekeying information across multiple processes. By automating processes, healthcare organizations can improve back-office operations significantly.
Improve Patient Experience
By improving back-office systems and introducing the type of self-service channels that people have become used to in other areas of their lives, healthcare providers can improve the patient experience by some margin. From self-service portals to self-check-in kiosks, digital workers are helping patients find more convenient ways to access care that reduces the time they spend filling out paperwork and sitting in the waiting room.
Reduce Operating Costs and Improve Financial Sustainability
Driving down costs, ensuring financial efficiencies, and innovating new revenue streams are all central to meeting and maintaining desired service standards. This means ensuring operating costs are kept low, processes are running efficiently and new ideas can be implemented at pace. It can be delivered by flexing existing resources to meet peaks in demand, for example, or by introducing new billable services without needing to add additional headcount.
Boost Employee Satisfaction and Workforce Empowerment
From making sure that staff has the time to focus on what they love to ensuring wards are full of diverse skill sets, it’s essential that teams have access to the time, energy, and resources they need. Whether training digital workers to manage simple activities that come with recruiting and onboarding new staff or automating contact centers, healthcare providers can improve employee experiences across the board.
Eliminate Human Error
As well as improving working practices and patient experiences, intelligent automation and RPA can help with the critically important issue of eliminating human error by reducing inefficient practices, such as rekeying data. If there is one central version of the truth about patient information, accessed by automated systems supported by digital workers, then there will less chance of mistakes being made.
Population Health Management
Intelligent automation enables all stakeholders to collaborate more effectively by breaching the systems and infrastructure gaps that keep data and resources siloed within specific organizations and functions. In doing so, doctors and case workers are able to make full assessments of their patients and can coordinate follow-up care without needing to pass patients from pillar to post. On a macro scale, this data can also be used to evaluate overall population health and make informed decisions around population health management and preventative care strategies.
Use Cases for Intelligent Automation and RPA in Healthcare
1. Revenue Cycle Management
From authorization, coding, and remittance to everything in between, healthcare providers can ensure they manage their revenue cycle efficiently. They can enable their teams to reclaim the cost of care and eliminate confusion around payment responsibility and eligibility with the support of a digital workforce.
2. Patient Scheduling and Appointments Management
One of the most time-consuming processes for healthcare providers is the administration of patient scheduling and appointments. With intelligent automation, patients can access self-service booking systems and personalized multi-channel communications to confirm appointments, change appointments, and update patient record systems, freeing employees to provide front-line care.
3. Claims Management/Medical Claims Automation
With intelligent automation, healthcare providers can process thousands of claims in hours instead of weeks, reduce claim handling time, provide much-needed assistance to patients and providers, and reduce the number of unpaid claims. Using digital workers to automatically manage communications between different parties in claims management can eliminate errors caused by data reentry and provide a platform that can be easily updated in line with changing government regulations.
4. Data Entry, Migration, and Management
Digital workers create the ideal solution to the time-consuming and resource-hungry work involved in data entry, migration, and management, whether that’s onboarding new employees or migrating patient records. This frees valuable people from the constraints of administrative tasks, and — from printing and scanning documents then reentering data — helping teams go paper free.
5. Healthcare Supply Chain Automation
Hospitals often manage hundreds of deliveries every day to keep their busy operations running smoothly. With intelligent automation, hospitals can use digital workers to track orders against agreed delivery times with suppliers, log deliveries, inform departments when stock has arrived, keep live records of what’s in stock, and automatically reorder products before they have run out.
6. Invoice Processing
Products can arrive in hospitals and other clinical organizations with a variety of invoice types, which have traditionally been managed manually from point of delivery to payment. Now organizations can use intelligent automation to work in combination with optical character recognition to read, convert and upload the information from invoices in system-compatible data formats, which can then be automatically distributed throughout the organization.
7. Patient Onboarding
Visiting a hospital can be stressful for patients, so healthcare providers are increasingly using intelligent automation to streamline patient onboarding. This includes gathering the patient’s medical data, demographics, and insurance information, then identifying the next steps for administrators and medical staff, plus creating or updating electronic patient records.
8. Regulatory Compliance
The regulatory environment for healthcare continues to evolve and change, bringing new responsibilities to bear on providers in terms of data security and privacy, as well as tracking and auditing medical procedures. With intelligent automation, providers can ensure they have robust and up-to-date systems in place to demonstrate compliance.
9. COVID-19 Test Tracking
When the pandemic hit, healthcare providers had to ramp up services to meet the increased and unexpected demand. Using digital workers, they have met the challenge of processing tests and communicating results to their relevant populations, reducing error rates and speeding up vital services.
10. Patient Communication
The COVID-19 crisis has significantly impacted elective procedures worldwide. Using digital workers, healthcare providers are automating the entire process of assessing outstanding procedures, then sending the correct communication via SMS and email to outpatients. Not only does this reassure patients that their procedure is ongoing, but it saves thousands of hours for administrative staff.
11. Healthcare Inventory Management
Managing healthcare inventory manually is not only increasingly difficult, but it also takes valuable time and resources. Using intelligent automation, healthcare providers can create a reliable system that enables them to have a real-time view of inventories, make orders automatically and view purchase/usage trends.
12. HR Onboarding and Efficiency
A combination of the COVID-19 crisis and pressure on resources has left healthcare workforces suffering from overwork and stress. Healthcare providers increasingly recognize the value of efficient and effective onboarding and HR management using digital workers, reducing the time needed to bring new employees up to speed as quickly as possible. A simple sign-on process can give a new member of staff access to all preplanned systems and areas of a hospital they need to work in quickly and efficiently, for example.
13. Transcribing Patient Letters
To reduce backlogs and save on costs, healthcare providers are using digital workers to transcribe letters dictated by consultants that are normally typed manually by a pool of typists. Transcription typists review the letters and ‘top and tail’ them, reducing the time needed to produce letters as well as the backlog of medical procedures.
14. Integrated Care
Healthcare providers are increasingly working in a more integrated way with other organizations, such as social care, law enforcement, government, and education. In these instances, digital workers should be considered as a way to integrate different IT systems used by multiple parties instead of creating brand-new systems from scratch.
15. Data Analysis and Forecasting
Projects are underway to gather data from letters sent by outpatient clinics to patients in order to understand treatment patterns and forecast future resource needs. The data included in these letters is semi-structured so it can be read and analyzed by a digital worker, leading to greater insights into how outpatient clinics are treating patients. Another application is using a digital workforce to analyze patient data and validate trial eligibility. Processing a single application manually could take up to 35 hours because of the level of detail required. Digital workers can process tens of thousands of applications in just a few hours.
16. Electronic Referrals
Digital workers can be trained to actively monitor incoming referrals from health professionals for patient appointments. When a referral arrives, the digital worker extracts the reason for the referral, gathers the supporting clinical information, and merges the information into a single pdf document within minutes. Once the information has been added to the hospital systems, the digital worker passes the information to the lead consultant for review and grading.
17. Vaccine Management
A digital workforce can quickly generate and gather data to help healthcare providers order, register, track, and distribute vaccinations reliably and at scale. This integrates real-time public health data with supply chain information from vaccine manufacturers, distributors, and healthcare organizations. Furthermore, it displays it in easy-to-use situational awareness dashboards, which provide visualized, actionable insights that are available to both technical and non-technical users.
18. Digital Front Door/Digitizing Healthcare Automation
A digital front door supported by intelligent automation enables healthcare providers to change the way in which patients interact with clinics and hospitals. It leverages multiple technologies, including remote consultations, mobile applications, and patient portals, all of which are designed to reduce the amount of time spent filling out paperwork and inputting data.
19. Personalized Healthcare
Instead of treating everyone with the same medicines, procedures, and advice, personalized healthcare aims to provide one-on-one solutions based on the rapid analysis of multiple data sets. Digital workers can take on the task of gathering and consolidating data sources, then applying data analytics to identify the most relevant treatment for an individual.
20. Medical Trials
Bringing new medicines to market quickly and without risk is one of the most important goals for pharmaceutical companies. The testing of new drugs with trials is a vital part of the process; one that is of necessity, highly detailed, and based on big data sets. With intelligent automation, pharmaceutical companies can automate data gathering and analysis, reducing the time needed to launch new treatments.
21. Contact Center Automation
An efficient contact center is foundational to the success of any healthcare provider. With intelligent automation, a provider can empower its contact center team to better serve patients by automating simple inquiries and creating a single source of truth for patient data. Doing so frees agents from time-consuming tasks and enables them to focus on patient needs, while patients spend less time on the phone.
22. Connect Disparate Systems
The back office is the powerhouse of patient processing. Patient journeys are underpinned by the ability to move data through a back office accurately and efficiently, from initial appointment through to discharge. Digital workers can assist back-office and administrative staff; rather than highly trained staff moving data from one system to another, digital workers can access the same applications and systems as a human team. The digital workers are ready to take on laborious yet essential data handling and migration tasks.
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