Automation in Healthcare?

At first glance, providing exceptional patient care using robotic automation sounds impersonal and ineffective. Taking a closer look reveals how utilizing robotic process automation (RPA) software helps providers throughout the entire care process, from diagnosis and treatment to administrative tasks like chart building and scheduling. Providers across the board are making the shift from paperless systems to an automated approach and seeing favorable results.

For smaller organizations looking to go paperless, RPA solutions offer both compartmentalized and system-wide solutions tailored to fit budgets and comfort levels as they make the transition. RPA solutions can target department-specific processes. This helps a healthcare provider that is not ready to take the plunge into an enterprise-wide solution. For larger consortiums using multiple software vendors needing a liaison between the two, automation provides much-needed APIs.

One of the challenges of a paperless system in the past has been dealing with human errors. Particularly, clinical malpractice or billing issues stemming from inefficient record keeping. As billing and claims filing now occur almost entirely online, healthcare organizations must keep up with the evolving technological trends to maintain competitiveness or risk falling behind in paperwork related bottlenecks. The trend in moving towards automation connects all parts of the workflow into one cohesive rhythm.

How It Integrates

Efficiency in operations through the use of automated software further translates into better patient care. Scheduling appointments, managing client communications, and notifying patients to refill prescriptions are only a few ways that organizations foster better patient outcomes. Internally, hospitals utilize automation’s artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities to make better diagnoses and provide adequate staffing that reduces mortality rates. Delivering better patient care with the use of automation cuts readmissions and lowers the costs of care. In some cases, automation can help to prevent medical errors both in-house and post-discharge.

But, automation does not replace the need for human interaction, nor does AI actually diagnose illness and completely eradicate malpractice. I can, however, reduce cases that may have been preventable. A recent study from the Medical Care Journal showed that having adequate staffing levels reduced in-patient mortality rate by as much as 25%. The use of automation in staff scheduling can build data over time that can help predict seasonal shifts in patient occupancy. Using backlogged data to help prevent being understaffed can be a positive step towards preventing unnecessary patient mortality.

Automation Benefits

Recent studies indicated organizations could address issues with and score higher Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers & Systems (HCAHPS) scores by utilizing automation software. RPA solutions offer ways to better communicate with patients. This includes during and post-care, explain medication uses, and arguably most importantly, providing help. From a financial perspective, automation software can save activity and transactions in filing billings and claims. Should an organization be subject to an audit, RPA’s unbiased and documented log provide accurate data of staff actions. Such information can build a strong defense case for the organization.

For providers of all sizes, automation poses significant operational benefits. RPA solutions have a distinct reputation for having low upfront costs and a quick ROI, typically less than a year. Time to implement is shorter compared to other software installations and have minimal workflow disruption during and after implementation. RPA solutions also provide a device-agnostic approach to healthcare. This allows providers to stay connected and take the solution outside the four walls of their practice and administrate caregiving to patients in their home environment.

Automation’s Future in Healthcare

Digitalization and automation of patient care spill over into the actual diagnosis as well. The predictive analyses capabilities of RPA on a broader scale collect data for research in the early detection of diseases. Scientists are using automation to build timelines and monitor symptoms throughout the course of an illness. Over time, automation in the research sector of healthcare will provide much-needed insight. This can help craft better treatment plans in the future. Automation to some degree offers an unbiased look at data that can pick up patterns not easily recognizable by humans. And while automation will likely never replace human intuition in the diagnosing of illness, it will help professionals provide better patient outcomes.

Going forward, the digitalization and automation of human care will help redefine the methods and processes used to achieve better patient outcomes and lower costs of care. In some cases, automation can and will provide insight into the inner workings of some diseases through pattern detection. In the short term, however, organizations are making the shift into automating processes and seeing immediate results. Lower mortality rates, higher HCAHPS scores, increased competitive advantage, and lower costs of care are only some of automation’s extensive benefits. And as the industry continues to change, automation will take a more pronounced position in administrating patient care. As one continues to look closer into the inner workings of healthcare automation, the results show that automation surprisingly takes even more of a personalized and effective approach. In that light, automated care sounds less and less like an oxymoron.