This article was initially published in September 2019 and was updated in May 2020.
In May 2019, McKinsey mentioned robotic process automation as one of the emerging technologies that will reshape healthcare and create between $350 billion and $410 billion in annual value by 2025.
In 2020, as the situation across the world rapidly changed from business as usual to adapting through a pandemic, RPA is already being implemented to accelerate operations in healthcare, helping organizations and professionals deal with the overwhelm caused by CoVid-19.
UiPath has gathered over 30 CoVid-19 use cases to date. Among the use cases, is a hospital in Dublin that uses the company’s RPA bots to process testing kits results within minutes, thus saving an average of 3 hours per day in the nursing department. Another example is that of a clinic in Cleveland, which used RPA for patient intake tasks such as registering a patient or looking her up in the electronic medical record. The delivery of results was done in seconds as opposed to minutes when the tasks were performed manually.
It’s not just hospitals that have been using RPA during this pandemic, the U.S government has worked with UiPath to implement the use of 500 bots for coronavirus related data analysis. RPA bots can even help the usual person with healthcare. By having a bot deliver specific CoVid-19 news and stats about your community based on your zip code, it saves you from the mental overwhelm of worldwide news on the matter.
It’s clear that automation trends are here to stay, and technologies such as RPA will change for better the way the healthcare system works and its impact on people’s lives.
According to a McKinsey report from 2016, the healthcare sector had a 36% technical potential for automation. The authors of a 2019 study published in JMIR Research Protocols firmly assert that “the future health sector will undoubtedly involve automation of routine task”.
Implementing robotic process automation in healthcare is expected to be the largest driver of further automation. This is not difficult to understand, if you are aware not only of the resultant increase of the productivity of human employees, but also of the fact that some forms of automation indirectly create not only more work for humans, but also higher value work.
Scheduling, physician order entry, laboratory test-review tasks, personal health records, automation of data collection from patients in the waiting room, electronic medical records, remote test ordering and repetition of prescriptions, clinical decision–support systems, telehealth and telemedicine systems – are just a few of the large spectrum of RPA application areas in healthcare.
Let’s take a look at them individually, to help you get a more practice-oriented idea about the deployment of robotic process automation in healthcare. You can also check a more comprehensive list of RPA use cases in healthcare here.
More effective patients’ scheduling
Software robots can streamline online scheduling. Factors received via the appointment request, like diagnosis, location, insurance carrier, personal preferences, etc., can be gathered in a report, and forwarded to a referral management representative who actually makes the appointment.
Who will benefit? Simply put, everybody: an easier job for the call centre personnel, less mistakes, more satisfied customers, and more evenly distributed appointments across doctors’ working time.
See below how an UiPath robot can be used to assist a call center agent through both identification and triage of customers.
Improvement of the care cycle
RPA boosts data analytics and thus it makes continuous record monitoring possible. Analysing comprehensive amounts of data increases the likelihood of more accurate diagnosis, which leads to better-tailored treatment strategies.
In fact, research is showing that automation in medical records leads to a reduction in deaths, as well as complications. This is why a better care cycle is one of the many positive upshots of improved analytics.
Additionally, doctors who don’t have to manually track potentially very large amounts of data because the bots can do it, can invest more time in attending to, and providing human assistance to their patients. This is yet another illustration of a paradoxically humanist outcome of RPA deployment – the fact that technology makes people matter.
Improvement of the revenue cycle functions (new patient appointment requests, patient pre-arrival and arrival, claim denials, billing, etc.)
Revenue cycles often involve many code changes which can be burdensome for the system. Robotic process automation is the right measure to ensure seamless adaptation to these modifications, and therefore an overall coherence.
These administrative processes get a boost from data digitisation and from the automation of repetitive tasks like accounts payable. According to Rod Dunlap, a Director in the RPA practice of Alsbridge Inc., up to 80% of claims and billing can be more effectively processed by the deployment of software robots.
Streamlined management of healthcare workflows
Read, population wellness, case and utilization management, healthcare management and coordination, or remote monitoring. All these are key aspects for both healthcare providers and patients. They involve numerous high-frequency, high-volume, repetitive tasks, which can be more efficiently completed by software robots. The end result? Lower costs for providers, and improved service for clients.
Top benefits of robotic process automation in healthcare
As in all other industry sectors, the primary argument for having routine based, monotonous tasks like the examples above performed by software robots rather than manually, is supported by the concrete benefits of robotic process automation in healthcare.
In short, automated processes are faster, more streamlined, and less marred by errors, resulting in redundancy elimination and simplified workflows. This accelerates clinical trials and drug approvals, and improves healthcare delivery. Healthcare clients, i.e., the patients, are the primary beneficiaries.
Consequently, the clinic itself and its employees will notice the gains and, quite likely, be more determined to continue the automation journey.
1. Processing cost reductions
UiPath reports the success story of implementing RPA in a hospital that needed to increase operational control in order to improve patients’ experience. Automating revenue cycle functions like claims or billing, for instance, resulted in cutting down the cost from $4 to $1 to per claim.
“Automating revenue cycle functions like claims or billing, for instance, resulted in cutting down the cost from $4 to $1 to per claim.”
2. Stronger billing cycle
Accounts payable and data digitization processes can be automated by means of RPA, thereby improving billing efficiency. By upgrading administrative processes, healthcare companies can significantly economize labour and financial resources.
3. Human labour cost reductions
By passing on to robots manually-intensive tasks, healthcare professionals save time. They can use these additional time resources to produce higher-value work, e.g., by focusing on more fine-grained patient attendance rather than on tedious data entry, thereby expanding their clinical training.
4. Increased employee satisfaction
This is a further consequence of the previous benefit. And the causal chain of positive effects doesn’t stop here! Craig Richardville, a pioneer of transitioning healthcare to a digital industry, argues that a higher level of healthcare professionals’ job satisfaction is directly linked not only with better care for the patients, but also with higher ROI for the company.
5. Appointment turnout optimisation
Software robots, with their capacity to integrate information from various sources can have a significant effect on increasing the efficiency of patients scheduling. This competence allows them to include a whole range of factors in patients’ appointment requests, including their medical histories, current diagnosis, location, insurance carrier, personal preferences, etc., and use them to set appointments that closely match what is most relevant for the patients.
6. Superior healthcare quality
This is perhaps the ultimate, all-encompassing benefit of implementing RPA in healthcare. By saving time, eliminating the risk of human error, and by allowing the staff to focus on more valuable, patient centred activities, automation improves patient satisfaction.
The increased operational efficiency may also expand the applicability range of healthcare. The healthcare system could thus better address the needs of more people. The promise of adequate care for a growing number of people turns RPA in healthcare into something more than a mere alternative.
To free up time for employees in an HR department for instance, payroll and time attendance would be processes that can be automated. Below, you can have a look at an RPA demo of automating these exact processes.
Because of its proven effects on saving time, effort, and cutting down costs, it is plausible to expect that RPA will revolutionize the healthcare industry. Implementing robotic process automation will allow healthcare professionals to focus on improving patient outcomes.
The power of the digital workforce to deliver fast and accurate results when it comes to inputting, organising, and analysing big amounts of medical data will make a significant contribution to widening access to care. Making the most out of RPA deployment in healthcare is an encouraging way to address current industry-specific challenges.
If you want to read more about RPA implementation, be sure to check our Complete Guide to Implementing Robotic Process Automation (RPA) Across 11 Industries, which you can get as a free ebook, from here.