10 Ways to Reduce Cost and Increase Productivity in Healthcare With RPA
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The healthcare sector is one of the primary beneficiaries of the digital revolution, thanks to technologies such as artificial intelligence and Robotic Process Automation (RPA). This article discusses the positive impact of RPA and software robots and how it has made the life of healthcare workers more manageable than ever before while helping healthcare systems reduce cost and improve quality. We will also look at the benefits and the most common use cases of RPA and software robots in the healthcare industry.
So, what is Robotic Process Automation?
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a process that utilizes software to mimic front-office and back-office tasks performed by humans. Duties include claims management, patient scheduling, billing, follow-ups, and much more. Automating these tasks removes that heavy burden from healthcare workers, letting them focus on more rewarding or engaging work that requires critical thinking and human judgment.
A study done by Grand View shows that RPA's value will soar from $358 million in 2017 to $3.11 billion in 2025. Gartner also predicts that over 50% of healthcare providers in the USA will invest in RPA by 2023. Fueling that rapid adoption is the boost in productivity it brings in several industries, including the healthcare sector.
10 use cases of RPA in healthcare
- Data entry
Data entry is a task that doesn't require specialized skills or critical thinking to execute. Most data entry tasks are repetitive, making it easier to automate them using software. RPA tools use natural language processing (NLP), speech recognition, and image recognition capabilities to extract data from various sources that can then be stored in databases and accessed when needed.
- Diagnosis and treatment using analytics
Health care facilities collect vast amounts of data about their patients. This data is often under-utilized by most facilities. However, you can use an RPA system to study the information you have about your patients and look for common patterns and helpful insights. These insights can make it easier and faster for doctors to diagnose any given disease.
It also improves the accuracy of the diagnosis since more data is used compared to manual diagnosis processes. Telehealth platforms use RPA to help with online screening for diseases diagnosed on the go. If well-utilized, RPA can save an organization up to 15 hours a week compared to diagnosing patients manually.
- Scheduling patient appointments
Another everyday use case of RPA is scheduling appointments. Appointments are made based on the schedule of the specific medical personnel the patient wants to see. Calendar apps use RPA to help determine when the right doctor or other medical specialists will be available to attend to certain patients needing their services - eliminating the chance of scheduling conflicts. RPA tools can also automatically cancel or postpone an appointment if a doctor can't make it due to unavoidable reasons.
- Patient follow-ups
One of the main tasks of a medical admin is sending follow-up messages to patients, reminding them of a missed appointment. Such tasks can be automated using an RPA system. These systems can also inform patients about their missed appointments and the procedure for rescheduling another one if they wish. Without such systems, these tasks will have to be done by humans, which is very costly and time-consuming.
- Document digitization
Healthcare facilities typically deal with a large amount of unstructured data, given the large amount they record daily. One of the main disadvantages of using such records is the time it takes to find, sort, or store the most vital information about everyday operations in the health facility. With intelligent document processing, information from these documents can be extracted and held in a way that makes it easy to find specific data whenever needed.
Intelligent Document Processing solutions use AI technologies, including natural language processing (NLP), Computer Vision, deep learning, and machine learning (ML). All assist in classifying, categorizing, and extracting relevant information at any given time. These digital solutions save time because the data is appropriately stored and easily searchable.
- Records management
Inputting, storing, editing, and deleting data can take time if done manually using traditional tools like Excel. With RPA, records management tasks can be automated, saving your administration team a lot of time. Automating data management processes also makes it easier for everyone on the team to access the data they need at any time. These tools also maintain data integrity when sent between various applications.
- Patient questionnaires
When a patient is undergoing treatment, doctors will often ask them specific questions to know the medication's progress and effectiveness. These questions usually follow a similar pattern and can be sent automatically to different patients using an Electronic Health Records (EHR) system.
Depending on the patient's answers, the system can automatically determine the next course of action, such as rescheduling a new appointment or a phone call with the patient's doctor — improving the follow-up process's effectiveness and efficiency for patients. It even makes more sense to use this kind of system if a medical facility deals with thousands of patients monthly.
- Billing and payments, and claim management
Accounting and Finance is another crucial department that can heavily benefit from using RPA systems in their billing and payment processes. RPA can help streamline the settlement of health payments, amalgamating costs such as tests, medicines, food, and doctor fees into a simplified expense — saving time and eliminating human errors. RPA bots can also check health insurance status claims faster than humans. Studies show that over 25% of claim denials are due to human error, putting the health facility at risk of loss.
- Tracking medical equipment and other assets
RPA systems can also track medical equipment's location, availability, and condition. A study by NursingTimes.net shows that a nurse spends over 40 hours each month looking for lost equipment. RPA tracks this equipment, making it easier for nurses and other medical personnel to find it when needed. Overall, using RPA systems improves medical facilities' asset and equipment management processes by monitoring the conditions of the equipment to determine when it should be maintained or replaced.
- Post-treatment care
Using RPA systems for post-treatment care can help patients access vital information from the medical facility after discharge. For instance, you can send patients automated messages reminding them to take medication or follow a meal plan recommended by the doctors.
These tasks would be time-consuming if you had to assign them to your team to do them manually. Automating them also ensures that all patients are taken care of depending on their discharge time and other parameters such as their medical complications, age, and more.
At Thoughtful, we dive into the mechanics of automating your process and analyze the human/healthcare workflow through the lens of automation — uncovering ways to re-engineer the process and reduce wasted human effort. A process evaluation is the quickest way to discover and recover lost time and money.
The benefits of RPA in healthcare
- Reduces administrative costs
Integrating RPA into your healthcare systems significantly lowers the workforce required to take care of several admin tasks, including data entry, sending messages to patients, sorting information, and more. Most of the healthcare platforms with RPA capabilities cost way less when compared to the cost of hiring and training human labor to do similar tasks.
- It boosts the productivity of your team
With RPA systems, your medical office can easily access all the data they need to make confident decisions. A doctor doesn't have to go through a series of documents before determining the proper medication to prescribe to a particular patient. The systems have already analyzed this data, and the doctor reviews critical insights to make a final decision.
- Improves the accuracy of data in reports and other medical documents
An error in a health facility can potentially lead to the loss of lives. Using RPA eliminates human error, leading to more accurate data that can be used to make vital decisions.
- Improves collaborations
Having easy access to the data can enhance collaboration for tasks that have to be done by more than one person. It also improves collaboration between heavily interdependent departments in the medical facility. For instance, after testing a patient's blood sample in the lab, the doctors can access the results in real-time to help in the diagnosis process.
- It boosts the overall experience of patients
Patients will significantly have a better experience when dealing with medical facilities that use RPA systems. For instance, it is common for patients to forget when they are supposed to take their medication or do any other activities that the doctors recommend. Using RPA systems to constantly remind them improves their likelihood of following all the helpful discharge instructions.
It is much easier to scale up most of the operations in the health facility using RPA systems. These systems eliminate the need to recruit and train the workforce, which is usually time-consuming and costly. Automated systems can also quickly adapt to the changing conditions if they are fed with all the relevant data they need.
- Regulatory compliance
Dealing with people's health data requires medical facilities to follow all the relevant data privacy regulations. With RPA systems in place, it is easy to determine who accesses data. The patients also have the freedom of deciding who accesses their data. Ultimately, this helps the medical facility avoid regulatory battles concerning user privacy.
RPA can significantly impact the healthcare sector if well implemented by the responsible parties. The ability to automate tasks such as patient scheduling, appointments, follow-ups, asset tracking, and more can reduce the operational costs of a medical facility. Besides cutting costs, the patient's experience is also greatly improved, boosting the medical facility's reputation in the long term.
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January 9, 2024