People also ask, “Can robotic process automation (RPA) be used in healthcare?” The answer is “Yes.” Below we explain how healthcare facilities can improve efficiency with RPA software.
Let’s explore the basics first and then explain how the medical sector is benefiting from this. What is RPA? Robotic Process Automation is technology that uses a robot to imitate and integrate the actions of humans who interact with business systems. The technology effectively uses the user interface to capture data, operate applications, interpret data, prompt responses and communicate with other systems to perform numerous repetitive tasks. Unlike humans, it never sleeps, is faster than humans, never makes mistakes and costs far less than an employee. Best of all, RPA is non-intrusive. Therefore, it uses existing infrastructure and does not interfere with existing systems.
What are the main benefits of RPA? Cost reduction, operational efficiency and compliance are the main benefits. This technology is being used in banks and other industries successfully and now healthcare organizations are jumping adopting it as well. In fact, an article by Avi Benezra called “leading your industry with RPA” makes the case that there is no excuse for larger organizations not to adopt RPA and that it is required to remain competitive. Gartner asserts that now in 2019, the RPA market is reaching $1.3 billion.
How Can Healthcare Improve Efficiency through RPA?
One of the biggest challenges that healthcare organizations face is the management and processing of information from within and without. This includes lab information systems, insurance portals, clinical applications, radiology information systems, ERPs, HR systems, scheduling applications and third-party portals. Integration of all these is complex, which is why most organizations rely on people to perform labor-intensive tasks to process information. Luckily there are many possibilities for automation of healthcare involving clinical documentation and data transfer. In involves moving information from the business front-end to the deeper business processes in databases to make information more accessible.
Extraction of Clinical Data
With the use of RPA, healthcare companies can retrieve data from physical and digital clinical documentation. The process of searching through a database and routing them to the correct user within the network can be automated. Instead of an employee spending time searching the database for documents, he/she feeds the RPA software a list of patient names and other credentials. Then the RPA extracts the required documents and either prints them or sends them to the intended users.
Initially, the RPA software simply tracks a person looking for documents by entering filenames, dates of file creation or document IDs using a desktop, then it mimics this action. Some people refer to this as “desktop automation.” This is the smart automation of some mechanical processes.
The RPA does not need to thoroughly understand the information that it uses or transfers. Therefore, it can further automate processes performed by an AI or NLP solution. For example, healthcare organizations involved in the Affordable Care Act can use RPA to accurately adjust customer payments according to their customers’ risk. They can also use RPA software to complete missing patient records more efficiently using data from medical charts, consultation notes, discharge summaries and electronic medical records.
Hospital Self Service Terminals
Emergency room personnel are often extremely busy dealing with a lot of patients who need care and they have to determine which patients should be prioritized based on their illnesses or injuries. To lighten their load, some of the routine work of checking in patients can be done by the patients themselves through self service terminals. Emergency rooms can provide self-service kiosks with screens on which patients can type their information. They can even provide scanners to take pictures of patient ID and insurance cards.
The RPA can be set up to automate the responses to patient inputs, and then it can load the information into a triage system so that front desk employees can review each patient’s information.
Once patients enter their data at the kiosks, their data can be sent to employees in triage so that they can determine patients in most danger and prioritize their care. The patients in less danger can wait their turn but they are watched in case of emergencies that may make them priorities. The RPA software can even automatically organize the list of patients by priority as they are entered into the system.
This may automate many healthcare jobs where people sit in front of computers that perform routine and formulaic tasks. Where RPA has been implemented, there has been improved front desk efficiency, and faster patient flow.
Off course when it comes to private healthcare clinics – chatbots are already tremendously helpful in booking appointments and delivering generic customer service in a way that improves retention and conversion.
Employee Credentials and Payroll Processing
Healthcare organizations can also use RPA software to automate the processing of employees’ credentials and payroll information. For example, the organization can create an app which employees use to photograph their time cards or to digitally transcribe information and automatically send these to the payroll department for payment.
The RPA software can also automate the transfer of data for personnel verification that relies on security or network credentials. Once an employee enters their credentials (e.g. ID number and name), the RPA software can send it automatically to the organization’s verification method.
What Is The Future of Healthcare and RPA?
RPA robots are virtual workers that automate most of any department’s work and may affect employment. Once they are in place, human employees can only fill in the gaps by performing processes that cannot be automated. They will focus more on using RPA-selected and organized information for research or to develop insights and make strategic decisions that improve patient safety and care. The implication for humans in healthcare is that they have to upskill themselves so that they can work with RPA instead of being replaced by it.
For healthcare organizations, implementing automation tools means reassessing and redesigning whole processes for cost effectiveness and efficiency. They can do more work with fewer people. In fact, Avi Benezra also makes the case saying “Every day that this is not solved, tax payers and shareholders are losing millions due to inefficiency” – and KPMG research seems to back his assertion all the way.
Naturally healthcare organizations have to get the help of a good RPA vendor and IT company to install RPA and kiosks and integrate them into its IT network. RPA software only works well if the kiosk design, AI payment processing solution, the NLP application for reading employee credentials, the user interface and backend integration are as efficient as possible before an organization adopts an RPA solution. Work may be required between the RPA vendor and the healthcare company to make sure that implementation will not lead to a decline in user satisfaction (patients and employees) and to reduce any potential friction.