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Healthcare Still has a Digital Data Problem: How Automation Can Help

Healthcare organizations spend approximately $2.1 billion each year on error-prone and inefficient data management activities. COVID-19’s epidemic heightened this problem since the number of individuals seeking medical care increased dramatically. As a result, more and more hospitals are employing robotic process automation (RPA) systems to reduce operational costs, prevent data mistakes, and increase efficiency. According to Gartner’s research, half of all U.S. healthcare providers will invest in RPA by 2023.

So, what is RPA, and how can it benefit the healthcare industry? Here we’ll review how RPA systems function, real-world case studies, and how healthcare organizations should approach implementing RPA and automation technology today.

What Does Automation Mean in Healthcare?

Various automation technologies exist to help healthcare organizations solve massive digital data problems. For example:

  • Automated charting: Automated charting software automatically fills inpatient information based on data from electronic health records (EHRs), labs, and pharmacies. This can help reduce clinicians’ time on documentation, freeing up time for patient care.
  • Robotic process automation (RPA): RPA uses software “bots” to automate rote human tasks, like data entry or claims processing.
  • Machine learning: Machine learning describes a type of artificial intelligence that automatically identifies data patterns to improve efficiency and reduce mistakes. For instance, machine learning software can flag potential errors in patient records.

Each of these automation categories improves efficiency and reduces the amount of time healthcare professionals spend on tedious, error-prone tasks. Freeing up time is critical so practitioners can devote more resources to urgent patient care.

Five Key Benefits of Automation in Healthcare

The healthcare industry has been notoriously slow to adopt new technologies. However, there has been a push to digitize health records and make other data-driven changes in how care is delivered. Despite initial resistance, there are many compelling reasons to automate healthcare processes:

Cost Reduction
According to a survey by CAQH, healthcare organizations save up to $13.3 billion by automating administrative processes. Such drastic savings reduce overtime and optimize traditionally slow and error-prone processes. Automation allows practitioners to get more done during their shifts while lowering stress levels and increasing job satisfaction. It also allows nurses to focus on patient care rather than paperwork, leading to fewer medical errors. In addition, these changes enable better work environments with fewer required overtime hours.

Robotic scheduling software is another effective automation tool. Scheduling software helps healthcare organizations reduce training and onboarding expenses by allowing managers to digitally automate previously documented rules in binders, sticky notes, and Excel.

Reduced Errors and Liability
According to a study by the Institute of Medicine, medical errors result in as many as 98,000 deaths each year in the U.S. Some of those errors occur as a result of incorrect chart details. For example, if a patient’s medical record contains erroneous information about serious allergies, a nurse or doctor might accidentally administer life-threatening medication. Automating data entry can improve patient outcomes and reduce liability by ensuring that chart information is correct from the start and for the duration of the patient’s relationship with the facility.

Automating data entry can also improve clinical decision support tools. Healthcare professionals are increasingly using clinical support tools to make better treatment decisions. Since these tools rely on data to make determinations, they will function best when integrated with automated data entry software.

Data Confidentiality and Security
To ensure patient data remains confidential and secure, healthcare organizations must implement solutions that automate case management data. These solutions will help safeguard Protected Health Information (PHI) and Personally Identifiable Information (PII) per HIPAA rules. By implementing data encryption and usage restrictions, the tools only allow authorized personnel to access sensitive information. Even if unauthorized personnel were to gain access to the data, the system would be unreadable and unusable. Therefore, automating case management data is essential in safeguarding patient information and maintaining HIPAA compliance.

Handling Emergencies and Adapting to Change
Healthcare organizations are beginning to employ machine learning (ML) solutions to adapt to rapidly emerging situations. For example, hospitals can swiftly increase staffing in response to sudden changes in patient volume–particularly in emergency rooms. They can also plan ahead to improve resource management.

For example, machine learning tools can help providers identify healthcare trends that could cause abrupt rises in patient flow–like during flu season. The software can determine when flu season is coming and how much staff the organization will need to manage the influx. This critical tool ensures healthcare providers have the support they need to care for patients properly.

In recent years, organizations have automated processes to react more swiftly to changes caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. For example, automation technology has allowed them to implement new rules such as social distancing and revise previous standards such as maximum occupancy levels.

Real-world Implementation of RPA in Healthcare

Insurance claims processing
As of 2016, 91.2 percent of Americans had health insurance coverage, translating to millions of insurance claims to manage each year. Insurance claims administration entails procedures such as data entry, processing, evaluation, and appeal dealing. When done manually, claims procedures are extraordinarily time-consuming and error-prone. Billing mistakes can significantly impact healthcare cash flow. Additionally, inaccurate details can cause patients’ claims to get erroneously rejected. In fact, according to AARP, every year, 200 million claims are rejected due to paperwork errors.

Fortunately, healthcare providers that leverage RPA can save money and help patients. RPA bots speed up data processing for insurance claims and avoid mistakes by automating procedures. As a result, RPA bots minimize delays and track the entire claims process. Even more advanced, artificial intelligence (A.I.) bots can detect exceptions to regulations and avoid accidental non-compliance.

Improving the Healthcare Cycle
Healthcare companies acquire massive amounts of patient information such as names, addresses, and insurance information. Most store the data in generic databases, making extracting and analyzing the info seriously challenging. They need a better way to manage and harness these essential patient details.

RPA software such as intelligent process discovery systems effortlessly handles copious amounts of data. As a result, advanced hospitals, healthcare services, and clinics integrate RPA technology with other smart platforms to rapidly extract and analyze the information they need to make the best decisions. These insights will allow practitioners to better diagnose and treat their patients for improved outcomes.

Implementing Discharge Instructions
Doctors typically prescribe medications to their patients, who must follow post-discharge instructions to treat themselves at home. However, it’s almost impossible to verify whether patients followed the guidelines and monitor their progress without intelligent technology.

With RPA bots, healthcare institutions can give patients digital and accurate discharge instructions. They can also set up notifications to remind patients about prescription pickups, future doctor’s appointments, and upcoming medical tests. Additionally, RPA bots can notify healthcare providers if patients require additional assistance to improve their outcomes. As a result, healthcare professionals can use this software to improve their patients’ experiences, deliver better care, and lower readmissions.

Healthcare Automation Is the Future

The healthcare industry is still facing a digital data problem. The lack of accessibility means that too many organizations are missing valuable patient insights, lost in disparate systems. Automation can help solve this problem by consolidating accurate data in one place and allowing healthcare providers to harness it for better patient care.

If you’re interested in learning more about how automation can help your business, please schedule a discovery call today. We’d be happy to discuss our automated healthcare solutions with you and see how we might be able to help.