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Robotic Process Automation: The Future of Healthcare

Photo by Eric Krull on Unsplash

In the next three years, Gartner predicts that 50% of healthcare providers will have invested in Robotic Process Automation (RPA).¹ RPA provides many tangible benefits to healthcare organizations like:

  • Reducing manual errors
  • Improving the patient experience
  • Optimizing medical equipment
  • Simplifying business processes

However, it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly what challenges RPA can solve for, what to prioritize, and where to begin your RPA journey. This article will discuss five key opportunity areas for RPA in healthcare today and provide example processes that can benefit a range of healthcare organizations.

5 Key Opportunity Areas for RPA in Healthcare Organizations

1. Invoicing and Claims Processing

Invoicing and claims processing can be an expensive, manual, and time-consuming activity for healthcare companies. Adhering to strict billing guidelines is critical, as mistakes are often complicated and burdensome to rectify. Unfortunately, many mistakes are a direct result of human error and the inefficient, manual processes in place. RPA removes the risk of human error by replacing manual processes with clearly documented, tracked, and traceable steps. Furthermore, the cost savings associated with RPA in this area can be great due to the high volume of transactions that occur each day.

Recently Slalom partnered with a leading healthcare technology company that processes claims on behalf of its customers. The company’s backend claims processes required manual intervention at multiple steps which often resulted in human error and complicated rework. After assessing this division’s sub-processes, Slalom was able to identify over 55 claims processing workflows that were good candidates for automation. With an investment under $100k, the client was able to automate four of these processes and realized $350k in estimated annual savings. Based on this success, this client is continuing their RPA journey and working through the backlog of additional identified processes.

2. Patient Experience

Providing a seamless patient experience can be difficult when data is located within multiple systems. One study found that, on average, U.S. hospitals have 29 different electronic systems that store patient data.² As patient demands become increasingly complex, companies must work harder to keep up with emerging medical and digital technologies while simultaneously maintaining and protecting patient data. RPA enables a better patient service by intelligently checking data across systems and updating patient records in real time. RPA ensures that the data is consistent and can automatically populate known information for traditionally manual activities like patient check-in forms. In addition, the ability to connect data across systems enables healthcare providers to access a “customer view dashboard” with details on patient history, trends, and even predictive health analytics — empowering providers to personalize the patient experience and improve patient care.

3. Document Management

Healthcare organizations spend a lot of time filing paperwork and completing documentation. Inefficient document management affects each level of the organization, including patient care. One study estimates that physicians spend up to 49% of their time completing paperwork and navigating the EHR system.³ RPA documentation solutions not only replace repetitive, monotonous employee tasks but they make data processing more efficient, freeing up time for providers to spend with patients. With data integration across platforms, RPA can automatically update forms, notes, and health records with known patient and provider information. Though automatic data entry, RPA helps providers quickly and accurately intake, file, and process patient health records while also monitoring the data, users, and activity for fraud and/or error prevention.

Also, RPA can streamline front-office patient onboarding processes by simplifying patient registration and other critical documents with data validation, user verification, and cross-application data integration. RPA software robots can even scan document images for information and update patient records automatically. Plus, RPA document management solutions facilitate immediate collaboration and communication — enabling providers to share critical patient data across practices quickly and securely — saving critical time in the event a patient emergency occurs.

4. Compliance

Keeping electronic medical records secure and HIPAA compliant (along with maintaining other regulations) are top priorities for any healthcare organization. However, protecting patient medical data and ensuring that processes are HIPAA compliant can become complicated if organizations rely heavily on repetitive, manual processes or operate across several applications. RPA provides a solution to reporting standardization, payment transparency, and protecting patient privacy with secure features like role-based access. With role-based access, RPA software robots can make sure that the right people have access to the right information. Often patient data is important to many departments within an organization. With RPA you can ensure that members from finance, IT, and/or marketing, only have access to the patient information that is relevant to their needs. Additionally, RPA solutions keep a detailed history helping organizations easily spot any issues or misuse in audit records.

5. Chatbots

Online chatbots can serve as valuable automation tools to elevate the patient experience and optimize processes. Chatbots can be used to book/modify appointments, send insurance quotes or pharmacy/medication reminders, capture customer feedback, and even streamline the check-in process by capturing information from the patient. RPA chatbots can interpret data from multiple sources and then trigger any number of business tasks. Since the chatbots never sleep, they work 24/7 to fulfill customers’ needs and/or process large volumes of repetitive tasks, thereby limiting or eliminating the need for costly and often error-prone human interactions and handoffs.

Photo by 🇮🇩 Irwan on Unsplash

As an emerging AI technology, RPA can be a differentiator for a variety of healthcare organizations. Healthcare leaders need to consider how leveraging these new technologies can elevate the patient experience, as an estimated 20% of all patient interactions will involve some form of AI enablement within clinical or nonclinical processes by 2023 (up from less than 4% today).¹ RPA can be a first step for healthcare companies to leverage AI within their organizations; however, it is critical to pick the right partner that understands your organization’s unique needs and strategic goals to have a successful RPA implementation. Because RPA replaces many manual processes, companies must commit to transformational change with both their people and processes to successfully reach their goals. Both now and in the future, RPA will continue to be an important element for healthcare organizations to sustain a strategic competitive advantage in the marketplace.

References

  1. Gartner Inc., Authors. “Gartner Says 50% of U.S. Healthcare Providers Will Invest in RPA in the Next Three Years.” Gartner, 21 May 2020, www.gartner.com/en/newsroom/press-releases/2020-05-21-gartner-says-50-percent-of-us-healthcare-providers-will-invest-in-rpa-in-the-next-three-years#:~:text=Half%20of%20U.S.%20healthcare%20providers,,%20according%20to%20Gartner,%20Inc.&text=Healthcare%20providers%20are%20caught%20in,experience%20and%20bolstering%20innovation%20credentials.
  2. Davenport, Thomas H., and Rajeev Ronanki. “Artificial Intelligence for the Real World.” Harvard Business Review, 2018, hbr.org/2018/01/artificial-intelligence-for-the-real-world.
  3. Lee, Bruce Y. “Doctors Wasting Over Two-Thirds Of Their Time Doing Paperwork.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 11 Sept. 2016, www.forbes.com/sites/brucelee/2016/09/07/doctors-wasting-over-two-thirds-of-their-time-doing-paperwork/?sh=6fe46bd85d7b.

About the Authors:

Maren Mellen is an Associate Consultant at Slalom Boston and is passionate about process excellence and the healthcare industry.

Carly Shumrick is a Principal at Slalom Boston, a process expert, and has 7 years of Professional Services Experience.

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