She slammed her hand down on the conference table. “We need to be more efficient,” the director bellowed as she breathed in deeply and composed herself before continuing. “The organization is bleeding out and we must find a way to protect it.”

All eyes were on her as she commanded the room.

A small voice piped up from the back of the room. “Ma’am, we’ve been working on this for months and we’ve already done everything we can to make improvements.”

“That’s not good enough! Bring in the man with the automations and artificial intelligence,” she exclaimed.

Setting the stage

Sounds like a scene out of the latest summer blockbuster, doesn’t it?

Would you be surprised if I told you it was from the late 1700’s around the time of the Industrial Revolution? 

If so, you’ll be even more surprised when I tell you it was actually from around 760...B.C.

And you probably read about it in High School.

When Homer wrote The Iliad, he dreamed of machine bellows that would stoke Hephaestus’ forge upon a simple command, knowing exactly how much air he needed in the fire to complete each step of his work, and golden servants, “fashioned like living beings” who had intellect, understanding, and skills to help their master without having to be told what to do.

Ok, so I took a little editorial creativity in setting the scene, but go back and check it out for yourself in Book 18 of the famous literary work. 

Imagine the possibilities

Process automation, or at least the idea of it, has been around for millennia and we are just now to the point where organizations are getting a firm grasp on it by using technology and beginning to realize substantial benefits.

Healthcare is no different, and oftentimes offers more opportunities than many other industries to employ automation technology in their organizational processes, which have historically been slower to adapt to technology due to patient privacy concerns.

Process automation works best with repetitive back-office tasks that have high volumes, high margins for human error, and strict security and compliance requirements. In the healthcare industry, this could look something like:

  1. Patient Admissions and Staff On-boarding
  2. Scheduling and Appointment setting
  3. Billing and Self-pay administration
  4. Charge-offs and Third-Party Referrals
  5. Claims / Appeals Processing
  6. Insurance / Co-Insurance Filing
  7. Code Changes
  8. Member Management
  9. Enrollment and Eligibility
  10. Medical Record Comparison / Updating
  11. Chart Digitization and Data Migration
  12. Staff Licensure / Certification Notifications
  13. Organizational Data Mining and Analysis
  14. Remote Patient Monitoring
  15. Organizational Bid Management
  16. Payroll
  17. Inventory Management
  18. Patient Care Coordination
  19. Compliance and Data Security
  20. Population Health Management
  21. Accounts Receivable / Accounts Payable
  22. Telehealth / Virtual Health Projects

Using process automation techniques, like Robotic Process Automation (RPA), to tackle redundant back-office processes can eliminate margins for human error, ensure processes are timely and efficient, assist in security and compliance efforts, as well as offer FTE cost savings. 

Healthcare has a unique use case as process automation can offer something bigger than just decreasing the bottom line — It can mean an opportunity for lower patient costs and more effective patient care. PWC’s HRI estimates that healthcare costs will increase more than 6% by 2020 so affordable patient care and efficiency throughout the organizations will continue to be at the forefront of industry concerns.

How does this apply to me?

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) projects, and process automation in general, see near immediate return on investment (ROI). Software bots have the ability to decrease operational costs while taking the redundancy out of the human workforce, allowing staff to focus on better patient care and ultimately make decisions that require thought and creativity. 

Walgreens realized this when they implemented RPA in their HR shared services team and saw a 73% increase in efficiency. They were also able to support a major IT systems rollout without hiring any additional staff and self-funded the initiative to ensure stakeholder engagement and buy in.

To add to that, Pfizer was able to save 220,000 hours per year while managing its complex medicine supply chain across global markets. By identifying potential compliance risks in a heavily regulated environment and gaining insight into drug usage, they were able to use the data insights to make an impact on their top line.

For highly regulated industries, like healthcare, RPA can provide a solution to repetitive back-office tasks while adhering to strict compliance and auditing requirements. Employing automation not only eliminates the likelihood for human error, but it also limits the exposure of sensitive data which keeps both Operations and IT happy. And because software bots sit on top of existing systems, implementing RPA can often provide a low cost alternative to updating or replacing old or outdated platforms, a challenge faced by many in the industry who are not prepared for a complete system overhaul.

University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust is the leading university teaching hospital in the West Midlands. It one of the most-consistently highest performing trusts in the NHS and has been rated “excellent” for financial management and “good” for quality of clinical and non-clinical services for the past three years by the Healthcare Commission. Under a tight timeline, UHB was able to implement the first-of-its-kind patient self-administration kiosk with 51% of patients registering with the kiosk, giving UHB a 50% increase in staff efficiency. Since then, UHB has also used process automation to enhance patient services and further reduce costs.

So, let’s recap

Process automation has been around for a long time. In the healthcare industry where patient care is the highest priority, and healthcare costs continue rising, employing process automation techniques, like RPA, will help organizations reduce their costs while allowing their staff to focus on providing the highest quality care.

There are many different processes within the healthcare industry that are fit for RPA and we all know that some of these are well overdue for a fresh coat of paint.

If you’re interested in learning more about process automation in the healthcare industry, feel free to reach out to us. We’ll talk about what’s working, what’s not working, and what’s possible. We can brainstorm a game plan and give you all the information you need to make an educated decision. This will allow you to take back to your team, clear and confident next steps so you know exactly how process automation can fit into your organizational initiatives and what your potential ROI will be.