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Back in 2013, the World Healthcare Organization (WHO) predicted that the global healthcare worker shortage could reach 12.9 million professionals by 2035, making in-person medical appointments a luxury few patients can afford. And the COVID-19 pandemic has only aggravated things.
While telehealth and remote patient monitoring (RPM) solutions slightly lessen the burden on the US health sector, a 6,000% growth in telemedicine usage has put a strain on medical personnel who manually process claims, enter data into electronic health records, and interact with patients through digital channels.
Wide-scale adoption of robotic process automation (RPA) solutions in healthcare may cure medical system inefficiencies. Here’s how.
What is RPA in the medical field?
Robotic process automation in healthcare is nothing like BostonDynamics’ dog robot or meal-carrying drones. Instead, we’re talking about ingenious bots — or pre-programmed software agents — that inhabit accounting, insurance, laboratory information, and patient engagement systems to name a few.
Feeding off structured data, which is stored in databases and may span patient demographics, names, addresses, and financial information, such bots execute rule-based, repetitive tasks the way human workers would.
In other words, the RPA solutions prevalent in the healthcare industry can be described as software that orchestrates other applications and performs tedious back-office tasks on its own, thus freeing healthcare workers’ time for diagnostic work and meaningful doctor-patient interactions. In particular, intelligent software agents are good at processing transactions, manipulating data, triggering responses, and conversing with internal and external IT systems.
How RPA medical solutions work under the hood
To better grasp the concept of RPA in healthcare, let’s find out what technologies lie in the heart of robotic process automation and how intelligent bots operate:
RPA scenarios in healthcare can range from no-brainer tasks like auto-generating replies to emails to supporting single-click installations of complex software systems. Here’s a rundown of the most potent RPA use cases in healthcare settings:
Other promising RPA use cases in healthcare span efficient medical coding, doctor-to-patient communication enhanced by auto-replies and reminders, centralized electronic medical record management, and inventory tracking.
Robotic process automation is a viable solution for healthcare organizations looking to serve more patients and improve patient outcomes without significant expenditures or friction on workers’ part. Below you will find a summary of RPA benefits in healthcare as reported by early adopters:
RPA implementation costs and ROI opportunities. The decision to implement RPA in healthcare environments is often driven by cost savings. As Mina Pekkala, Head of Robotics at Helsinki University Hospital, put it, “When we choose potential processes to automate we put weight on cost savings: how much is the work going to cost and what is the actual return on investment?” While the cost of RPA tools in healthcare fluctuates around $5,000-15,000 per intelligent agent, a company might need dozens of bots to facilitate their workflows. The good news is, most organizations that implement and scale their RPA medical system achieve payback in just 12 months.
Alarming RPA project failure rates. Initial RPA projects hit multiple roadblocks and fail in 30-50% of the cases. This can be attributed to the fact that healthcare providers tend to automate the wrong processes, overlook IT infrastructure limitations, make use of traditional software delivery methodologies, or skip the minimum viable product (MVP) stage of RPA development, trying to cover too many business cases at once. Many of these pitfalls can be avoided by partnering with an experienced RPA solution provider and taking a granular approach to automation.
Desired level of intelligence. Experts consider RPA an exploratory step towards truly intelligent automation, which relies on computer vision, natural language processing, and fuzzy logic AI. By integrating AI capabilities into robotic process automation solutions, healthcare providers can derive insights from both structured and unstructured operational data — and act on it. Unstructured data comes in the form of handwritten notes, PDF files, videos, social media posts, medical images, and sensor readings gathered from connected equipment. Up to 80% of all information produced by healthcare organizations can be classified as unstructured, and its volumes are growing as more data is being collected and used for patient care. When planning a pilot RPA project, organizations should weigh in on healthcare AI integration opportunities and discuss available options with their vendor.
Although RPA remains one of the fastest-growing enterprise technologies, only 5% of US healthcare providers are currently using intelligent bots to automate mundane work and boost efficiency. According to Gartner, however, the percentage of RPA adopters in the healthcare industry could jump to 50% in just three years, while 20% of all doctor-patient interactions will soon involve some form of artificial intelligence (up from 3% today).
A smarter, younger version of traditional hospital software, robotic process automation helps medical organizations improve care delivery and patient experience while keeping administrative costs (which comprise 34.2% of all US healthcare expenditures!) down.
In case your medical organization is ripe for a robotic overhaul, do not hesitate to contact ITRex RPA experts! Together, you’ll enhance every process that needs improvement and automate what can be automated.
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