According to a report published by the United States Census Bureau in 2016, a new demographic trend has emerged. By 2020, people over the age of 65 will outnumber children under 5. And by 2050, the percentage of people 65 and over will be more than twice the percentage of young children. This so-called “demographic earthquake” is expected to start taking effect on the global labour market.
This means, among others, that the number of people who need medical assistance is also on the rise. The healthcare industry must find the resources to adapt to this new demographic trend. Robotic process automation in healthcare should thus be taken full advantage of, in the attempt to provide adequate medical care to a larger number of people.
The positive effects of automation in the healthcare industry extend beyond this aspect. Additionally, it can make a significant contribution to cutting down costs and to providing better customer care. It is important to note that these are precisely the healthcare priorities mentioned by three quarters of hospital CEOs, according to a HealthLeaders report from 2013.
The benefits of using robotic process automation to streamline processes is not anything new, while that between streamlined processes, efficiency and reduced costs is commonsensical. If you think about the expected growth of 6.5% for health care costs, according to UiPath, and about the fact that a KPMG study shows that robotic process automation can increase savings up to 50%, then you should definitely consider the capacity of automation to bolster cost reduction.
One other way that RPA might contribute to savings is by more accurately identifying the health care claims that do not meet the requirements (around 30-40%, according to the abovementioned study), and thus recovering a lot of money that might have otherwise gone unpaid.
Moreover, if back-office, routine tasks are passed on to software robots, this would allow doctors to use their human skills in order to better address their patients’ needs instead of filling in consistently names, dates and addresses. Robotic process automation might facilitate customer service in health care.
According to the statistics available in McKinsey Quarterly, 36% of the healthcare tasks - mostly, managerial and back-office - are amenable to automation. So let us now lay out these growth and efficiency opportunities that robotic process automation could bring to healthcare.
Robotic Process Automation in healthcare means increased operational efficiency
The benefits of robotic process automation in healthcare mean increased operational efficiency, productivity and cost-savviness. In fact, there is more than this quantitative approach to the issue; we should not forget the qualitative dimension of RPA in healthcare. For instance, Peter B. Nichol also makes the point that “the conversation has expanded beyond cost reduction to quality, engagement, and innovation”. But let us first spell out the basics, with our eyes on data from the HfS Blueprint Report.
1. The KPMG report we mentioned earlier advocates a large scope of RPA use for the whole of a hospital’s revenue cycle because of the suitability of automation for structured data, with specified parameter sets. The revenue cycle includes administrative and clinical functions necessary for the management of patients’ accounts, from preregistration to bill payment.
Functions of the revenue cycle such as new patient appointment requests, patient pre-arrival and arrival, or claim denials are particularly well suited for automation. Just think about how costly errors like faulty data entries may be! So then why not go for an error-free partner, like RPA promises to be? More, RPA can facilitate compliance with the large number of healthcare regulations, which is vital when dealing with claims denials.
Tasks incorporating multiple solutions such as patients scheduling, claims evaluation, administration and management, or clinical documentation can be error-free and fast if performed by bots. As a consequence, the re-processing costs might be stamped out, which would decrease the overall costs of healthcare.
According to Peter B. Nichol, robotic process automation can also be of help when it comes to member, provider and healthcare management. This means passing on to bots tasks such as enrollment billing, provider credentialing, or care coordination and case management, which can be extremely time-consuming and susceptible to error if performed manually.
2. UiPath uses another success story to back the case for the utility of robotic process automation in healthcare. The healthcare provider in question is a Berlin hospital “with nearly 2,000 employees, 70,000 emergency visits and 300,000 outpatient annually”. The main reason for adopting RPA was to gain more control over its operations, which was in turn expected to contribute significantly to the satisfaction of their high number of patients.
The implementation of RPA software was a win - win situation for both provider and patients. More streamlined supply processes (like claims monitoring or billing) because of 80% automation, led to a cost reduction per claim. As many as three quarters of the patients were happy to use the digital services like scheduling consultations, access to medical history or billing information as opposed calling the medical service to obtain such information prior to RPA enablement.
3. Assigning the dull tasks to software robots allows the medical personnel to invest more of their time in patient care, which has benefits across the board for patients, healthcare management and Government.
4. Last but certainly not least, we wish to underline that RPA should not be seen as a tough competitor to be feared in the job competition. This point is in fact a reiteration from a different perspective of the point above.
Perhaps in healthcare it is more obvious than in other industries that automation is not meant as a “substitute for headcount”, rather a facilitator of a proper division of labour. In other words, if bots take over the tedious administrative jobs, the human personnel can really make the most out of their uniquely human capacities, such as emphatic expression or differential diagnostic reasoning.
UiPath quotes the Institute of Health Technology Transformation reporting that “automation makes population health management feasible, scalable and sustainable”. This encompasses all the benefits of robotic process automation in healthcare that we discussed throughout the article.
So where do we go from here, what avenues does RPA open in the healthcare industry?
Use of next-generation technology in healthcare seems to be the perfect example of proper use of technological updates in the service of humans, so that they can better thrive in the era of innovation. And RPA might be just the beginning, as stated in the KPMG report that we referred to earlier.
In the (not too far) future, it might be coordinated with machine learning and cognitive technologies, and thereby extend its role. The KPMG report envisages even the complex task of diagnosis as ultimately amenable to this sort of integrated technological development.
This article is contributed by Daniel Pullen. Daniel is General Manager at CiGen, one of the first dedicated Robotic Process Automation companies based in Australia. He is passionate about intelligent automation, robotics automation consulting and bringing the benefits of digital robotics into the workplace.