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Collecting and integrating data from multiple external and internal sources is an essential part of the day-to-day routine of healthcare organizations. If done manually, it eats up tons of time, slows down processes, and increases operational costs. Hospitals, medical laboratories, and clinics of various types, from physical therapy to plastic surgery or dental clinics, face operational and organizational challenges due to insufficient automation of their activities.

RPA (Robotic Process Automation) adoption is one of the ways to cope with this issue and the primary step toward digital transformation. Automation of countless rote activities accelerates processes and helps you reap fast rewards such as devoting more time to patients and providing them with an enhanced service. And the better it is, the higher is your healthcare provider’s rating. Not to mention that by removing a manual component of daily mundane tasks, you can patch up the holes in your operating budget.

RPA will become a game changer for your clinic

RPA works for mechanical, logical tasks that operate structured data. The information from the different systems is matched appropriately, and the bots perform a wide array of activities on a pre-thought algorithm without employees’ involvement. 

How does RPA handle challenges in the healthcare industry? Its implementation allows you to:

  • Speed up data-related operations. Healthcare is one of the industries with an extensive document turnover. Performing operations that involve extracting, entering, updating, and transferring data manually is a waste of time and budget. RPA bots will take on routine tasks and perform them 15 times faster than a human. Couple that with the reduction of human error and increased data accessibility for doctors and patients. If you have a private practice, decreasing the possibility of human-caused mistakes may also be a reason to invest in RPA. However, make sure it’s really worth it, considering development costs and the workload in clinics of this size. 
  • Reduce the cost of processing and human labor. According to a Deloitte survey about RPA in MedTech, the application of RPA in healthcare can lower these kinds of costs by up to 80%. 
  • Improve security and compliance. Apart from ensuring compliance with protocols such as GDPR, HIPAA, you have to regulate data access levels for different employees since back-office workers, administrators, and doctors require different rights in sensitive data usage. This problem can be solved thanks to the role-based access implemented with the help of RPA bots. A Protiviti global survey proves that 74% of respondents improved compliance with security regulations thanks to automation.

RPA plays a significant part in enhancing healthcare quality and creating a better patient experience. As you free your employees from paperwork and monotonous, repetitive operations, they can devote more time and attention to patients who get qualified help faster.

RPA in healthcare

Let’s investigate some examples of RPA use cases in healthcare from the perspective of the patient’s pre-visit, visit, and post-visit activities.

Pre-visit activities

Pre-visit activities are all the operations that set the person up for the appointment. How do digitization and automation reinforce this process?

Patients’ scheduling 

Now that we are living in a new reality shaped by the pandemic, it’s hard to imagine that two years ago, 88% of appointments used to be booked manually. If you still have assigned staff to collect data on patients’ appointments, probably such an approach requires extra time and effort from both your employees and visitors and results in insufficient and slow processing of requests, and human errors. 

We’ve described the scheduling example in detail in our previous article on the benefits of RPA in different industries. Now let’s focus on the other side of this process. The gap between scheduling an appointment and the actual visit to the doctor could reach up to months or even more than a year. It’s easy to forget about the visit without prior notification. The no-show rates among US healthcare providers reach up to 39% depriving them of $150 billion annually, partially because patients simply forget about their appointments. Therefore, adopting RPA in the healthcare industry to automatically send appointment reminders is primarily about saving your money.

RPA in healthcare

Insurance verification and validation

Does the patient’s insurance cover the appointment and treatment? If this information is still checked manually, it slows down the process and takes a lot of time from employees.

Also, consider that changes in the patient’s insurance policy, such as plan coverage or home address require billing offices to re-start insurance verification. Meanwhile, RPA bots can track if the patient visited the doctor or canceled the appointment and then generate the information on cost and insurance deductibles. The technology runs quickly and consistently according to a well-defined algorithm. You get the up-front process visibility and can check at what stage what actions the bot did. For example, if it’s not clear why the bot billed for a certain cost, you can review a record of its actions.

Visit activities

The main part of the patient’s journey is the appointment itself. People interact live with the clinic or hospital staff at this stage, and their experience influences their perception of the services of your healthcare facility. That’s why making use of RPA to meet your patients’ expectations of convenient service and personal data security is vital.

Security & compliance checks

Collecting and storing information electronically allows laboratories, clinics, and hospitals to greatly fasten and simplify the health information exchange (HIE). The goal of sharing medical records among disparate healthcare systems is all about creating timely and high-quality patient-centered care. But how to ensure data security when it’s moved between different systems? Leverage RPA for security and compliance needs — create bots that automatically:

  • Detect personally identifiable information (PII) and encrypt it to protect patients’ data from cybercriminals. You can add additional functions and make the bot capable of sending an alert if PII doesn’t meet an established policy.
  • Delete personal data after a certain period, as required, for example, by GDPR.

Remote patient monitoring (RPM)

Since most healthcare staff already have a lot on their plate, overloading them with patient monitoring on top of everything else seems like a bad idea. RPA technology can solve the problem with simple, repeatable tasks such as collecting and monitoring the information on the patient’s test results and self-reported adherence. 

For example, if the patient’s blood pressure rose during the clinic visit, the RPA solution can help monitor their condition during the next hours or days. How does it work? The bot sends notifications to measure blood pressure to the patient’s profile in a special application. If it registers a high reading, it will additionally send the person a health questionnaire — what are other symptoms, has the patient used medication, etc. — and will set a reminder to additionally measure the resting pressure. If it’s normal, the application will notify the person that there’s no reason to worry. But if the reading is still high, the system will inform the nurse that this patient needs an extra appointment. In the example described, the patient’s health data is recorded in real-time, and the involvement of doctors and nurses is required only in some cases, while in a system without an RPA, all these activities would be performed by the medical staff and would be recorded asynchronously. Digital technologies free up highly qualified specialists for things that can’t be done without them and still ensure full-fledged care for patients. 

Discharge instructions

How can doctors make sure their patients are taking medications? They can’t. Unless there are specially programmed RPA bots, that send reminders to the patient and, if need be, notify the doctor if the patient doesn’t go to the pharmacy to get the prescribed meds. 

The role of automated discharge instructions is even more important for hospitals and patients after surgery or other serious treatment. Let’s find out what tasks can be left to RPA based on the example of a patient who’s undergoing chemotherapy.

  • Notifying the patient about scheduled appointments
  • Sending prescription pick-up reminders 
  • Reminding to take medical tests
  • Registering the patient’s health state after the session
  • Alerting the doctor if the treatment doesn’t go according to the plan

In case the patient experiences any atypical symptoms, he/she notes them in a special application. The RPA bot receives this information, transfers it to the clinic, and offers to set an appointment with the required doctor. 

Post-visit activities

The payment process is one of the low-hanging fruits that are easy to automate because of a large number of repetitive steps. At this stage, RPA not only streamlines the procedure but also eliminates the probability of a human error. 

Billing

In order to charge for medical services correctly, the clinic’s billing office needs to merge information, such as patient records, disease codes, medications, etc. Baylor Scott & White Health (BSWH), a system with 52 hospitals across the United States, calculated that manual billing takes 5-7 minutes, and its accuracy isn’t 100%. After RPA implementation, hospitals can cope with 70% of estimates without employee involvement and human error.  

Claims processing

McKinsey’s survey among healthcare facilities shows that 72% of respondents believe RPA greatly impacts claims processing. 

What operations can be automated? 

  • Opening and copying data from emails and entering the information into your core system. 
  • Reconciling and verifying claims data.

Such an approach speeds up the back-office services and enables you to provide visitors with a better experience. Implementing automated solutions also impacts employee costs. Avera Health saved $260,000 in staff costs by creating bots to review user account status and alert managers about pending and incomplete claims.

RPA technology is known for being of much use for patient care. RPA bots can send reminders about procedures and tests to the patients as well as automatically create reports for the physicians, keeping them up-to-date on the health state of those they treat. At the same time, COVID-19 uncovered new areas where RPA can be helpful:

  • Bots help monitor employee health in real-time. They track nursing staff’s and doctors’ health status and alert every case of a high body temperature. Such an approach allows hospitals to take appropriate care of their employees.
  • The technology streamlines staff onboarding by 10 times. Bots automate operations such as checking job seekers’ police vetting and their employment status background. 
  • RPA solutions speed up COVID-19 testing by more than 90%. Bots make the initial diagnosis and then collate this information with the patients’ COVID test results and their medical records in the hospital’s EMR. 

Even if it seems like the worst of the coronavirus is over, refusing to equip your hospital with electronic assistants is shortsighted. This pandemic will subside over time, but there is no guarantee that a similar threat won’t arise in the future. The technical readiness of healthcare providers to cope with the hardest challenges is the cornerstone of efficient patient care. Start with RPA implementation to have your hands and minds free for activities that require human involvement. 

Save money and free up time for humans to focus on higher-value tasks

RPA is an easy-to-implement opportunity for healthcare organizations to cut costs and speed up operations across the company. Just imagine the labor time that could be eliminated or minimized with automation. At the same time, you improve care quality and, as a result, increase patient satisfaction. Therefore, the processes in your clinic, hospital, or lab that can be broken down to a set of ‘if/then’ decisions, should be streamlined with the help of RPA.

Reach out to our specialists to discuss which of these examples of RPA in healthcare can be applied to your organization’s practice.

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Anna Vasilevskaya

Account Executive

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