Arguably, no industry has a greater need for Robotic Process Automation (RPA) than health care. Repetitive and mundane tasks? Check. Managing the same data in multiple systems? Check. Balancing administrative overhead with time for care? Check. The list of reasons goes on. RPA — automation for office tasks — executes routine work around the clock, without the risk of human error, and in a fraction of the time that it takes a human to perform the same activities, helping health care providers address problems like:
- Lack of interoperability — Electronic health record (EHR) systems often fail to integrate well with other systems, including billing and claims applications, multiple payer systems, and other EHRs.
- Fractured processes — Existing processes frustrate Revenue Cycle Management initiatives due to the inefficiencies between clinical, operational, and financial processes.
- Regulatory requirements — Providers struggle to keep up with new and growing regulations from multiple government entities.
- Staff overload — People, drawn to the industry to care for others, spend an increasing amount of time doing administrative tasks that are expensive when performed manually, and they ultimately feel overloaded.
A recent RPA success story covers a full-service behavioral health care provider’s improvements in two data management areas: a) eliminating a manual step in entering group therapy attendance into their EHR and b) reconciling patient data with a payer system to streamline reimbursements. The provider has already saved 3,700 hours of manual work across just four RPA initiatives.
The provider’s story highlights some key lessons for other health care providers who need to improve operational efficiency:
Identify High-Value Activities and Processes That Rely Too Much on the Extraordinary Efforts of a Few People.
Some work activities are a part of doing business while others are core to the mission. The treatment center in the story automated a single activity, both eliminating some manual documentation of care and reducing errors that impact reimbursements.
Health care providers should consider where their people are spending too much time on non-core activities. What mission-critical processes are most fragile due to manual steps? These are likely great targets for RPA.
EHR(s) Inevitably Have Gaps, and Whole Ecosystems of Manual Work Have Grown Around These Limitations, so Prune the Overgrowth.
Most providers have a love-hate relationship with their EHR system. Moments of frustration happen when the EHR doesn’t quite support a critical activity or work well enough with another system, forcing people to institutionalize workarounds. These “that’s just the way it’s done” activities — manual steps from people to EHR, EHR to EHR, and EHR to other systems — often can be done in a better way with RPA.
In the success story, both of the highlighted applications close EHR gaps: one application of RPA automates data entry from point of care to EHR, and the other performs a check between the treatment center’s and a government payer’s EHR.
Let RPA Handle the Little Things so Team Members Can Focus on Delivering Great Care.
After deploying automation, an organization effectively has two types of workers: people and “bots” (aka the deployed automation). When resources are deployed based on this division of labor, a virtuous circle occurs. Bots reduce the administrative burden while improving quality, freeing people to spend more time delivering care, which improves outcomes for everyone. Patients receive more focused care, employee morale improves, and the provider enjoys the greater financial performance. In the success story, the automated tasks are essential yet were clearly a drag on efficiency, morale, and the revenue cycle when these tasks were performed by people.
The RPA success story can be downloaded here.