By 2020, there will be more Americans over the age of 65 than under age 5, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. This ongoing demographic shift, combined with a growing population, will put new pressure on a healthcare system that’s already shown signs of instability.
In the years and decades ahead, more people than ever will need medical care—and fewer healthcare professionals will be available to provide that care. Fortunately, many healthcare organizations have started to prepare for this new reality. We’ve seen companies take significant strides to adopt emerging technologies, especially over the past two years. These solutions enable them to provide better patient experiences more efficiently, ultimately leading to better outcomes.
The adoption of robotic process automation (RPA) has allowed some providers to optimize patient intake and reduce data input errors. This tweak simplifies revenue cycle management and leads to faster medical reimbursements for patients. The technology is still in its infancy, but its benefits are well-documented. The successes of early adopters should get the attention of the rest of the industry.
Rise of the robots
A UiPath study estimates that worldwide healthcare costs will increase by about 6.5% annually—a sign that controlling costs should be an industrywide push. Technological solutions like RPA can help healthcare executives create those savings.
RPA integrates with machines to automatically update systems and identify exceptions that will help expedite the claims process and reduce transaction times by more than 80%. With RPA, insurers can process an increased number of member enrollment requests and more efficiently manage contracts with providers.
As with any new technology, there are challenges involved with implementing RPA. The most salient of these is a lack of related expertise among technical workers, which ultimately leads to a general lack of awareness.
Additionally, RPA's reliance on data makes most providers hesitant to use APIs that enable data sharing due to security concerns. Data-exchange standards in healthcare have yet to mature, and organizations usually silo digital health records.
Finally, there's a prevalent fear that automation might make human workers obsolete. In reality, RPA can only outperform human workers when it comes to repetitive tasks. Machines can only complement humans in these roles—not replace them.
Companies that invest in RPA enable their employees to take on more customer-centric roles, a shift that has led to bottom-line growth, happier customers, and more engaged employees.
Make RPA work for you
For CTOs and other industry executives who want to capitalize on the benefits RPA can deliver, remember these three action items:
1. Start with a prototype. Don’t assume that RPA will immediately solve every inefficiency. Start by identifying opportunities for optimization within each business unit, and then create a proof of concept or pilot program to determine whether automation would be viable.
From there, develop a prototype to get a better idea of how the technology would integrate into existing processes. Run a side-by-side comparison of current process outcomes and new outcomes. You may stumble out of the gate, but that’s OK if you start small.
2. Formalize your goals. As you assess your proof of concept and prototype, try to pinpoint precisely where improvements exist. Perhaps you will see fewer errors in data entry, employees who can take on new responsibilities, or self-auditing automation.
No matter where you land, figure out which of these benefits you want to scale across your organization. Once you do that, identify the internal personnel or third-party vendors you’ll need to make it happen.
3. Rally your workforce. Automation inevitably will affect your employees in some way. Some team members may need retraining, and others will need to understand how their existing responsibilities and workflows will change.
Hold workshops that educate each department on the benefits of automation and the new opportunities that will be available to them. Some team members will take on more client-facing roles, which could require its own unique training and preparation. The more your employees understand how their work will change, the better positioned you'll be to ensure that change is positive.
RPA can streamline your hospital workflow and free your employees and budget for more high-minded objectives. Embrace it and witness the benefits.