Technology is maturing day by day, and the healthcare industry is finding new ways to integrate it into patient care. One area that’s gaining traction is robotic process automation in healthcare. And the market data suggests that this trend is unlikely to slow down anytime soon.
According to a recent report, the global market for RPA in healthcare was valued at a staggering $2.9 billion, and by 2030, this figure will skyrocket to approximately $6.2 billion. This represents a remarkable CAGR of 26.01% between 2022 and 2030.
So, let’s see how technology is transforming the healthcare industry and what role RPA plays in different aspects of it.
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Introduction to Robotic Process Automation
Robotic process automation is a type of technology that uses software robots to mimic the actions of real people. The focus is on performing repetitive, rules-based tasks. These bots are programmed to follow a set of rules and workflows to complete the tasks much faster and more accurately than a person could.
For example, someone creates a script that tells the bot to read your emails, extract the relevant data, and then enter it into a different system for you. The bot will follow these instructions just like you would but without your constant involvement.
RPA isn’t different from traditional automation in the way that it’s designed to work alongside people. Traditional automation typically means replacing workers with machines, like assembly line robots. But RPA only augments workers. You can view RPA more like a virtual assistant that works with people to accomplish tasks.
Advantages of Adopting RPA Technology
Here is a quick breakdown of the major benefits RPA brings to users:
- Increased efficiency and accuracy. Bots work tirelessly and with zero errors, which allows employees to focus on more strategic and creative work. Plus, you can get more work done in less time because bots work 24/7.
- Cost reduction. Robots don’t need to be paid, don’t take breaks, and can work as much as you need them to. So, you can save a lot on labor costs.
- Improved compliance and risk management. RPA ensures that all tasks are completed in a consistent and compliant manner, leaving little room for costly violations.
- Enhanced scalability and flexibility. You can easily add or remove bots as needed, depending on what your current tasks are.
Common Applications of RPA in the Healthcare Industry
Here is the most common application of RPA in healthcare, with specific use cases in each area:
Revenue Cycle Management
RPA can automate the process of patient registration and data entry. Bots will collect patients’ information from various sources (electronic medical records, insurance websites, etc.) and enter it into the appropriate fields in the RCM system.
Also, bots can access insurance websites and databases to quickly verify a patient’s coverage, thus speeding up the process and reducing discrepancies. Or they can review claims for accuracy and completeness. If they find something that needs further investigation, they’ll flag it.
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Patient Care and Engagement
You can set up the bot workflow to send patients automated reminders about upcoming appointments. In turn, you’ll reduce the risk of missed appointments and improve patient satisfaction. And patients can use RPA-powered chatbots for their appointments — to schedule them or ask questions about them.
If there is a need for targeted messages after the appointment, RPA software offers another useful application — personalized communication and follow-ups. When it comes to medication, similarly to appointment reminders, you can request the bot to send reminders about refills, dosage timings, side effects, and more.
Supply Chain and Inventory Management
One of the uses of RPA is in the procurement process, from generating purchase orders to tracking shipments and receiving goods. In addition to that, bots can track inventory levels and automatically reorder supplies when they run low. This helps with keeping the necessary supplies when needed and minimizes oversupply or waste.
If you need assistance with invoice processing and reconciliation, you can set up bots to process invoices automatically and match them to purchase orders and receipts.
Human Resources and Payroll
RPA can be an invaluable tool for streamlining HR and payroll processes. For example, it can help with paperwork, approvals, and communication involved in onboarding and offboarding employees. Or you can capture data from various systems to track employee attendance, vacation time, and sick leave.
Additionally, automation benefits administration. The automation of enrollment, processing claims, or managing employee data, for instance, leads to faster reimbursement and better cash flow.
Best Practices and Key Considerations for RPA Implementation
Here are some strategies to ensure a successful implementation:
- Start by identifying and prioritizing RPA opportunities. Look for repetitive, rule-based tasks that can be automated and create a list of potential processes to target first.
- Develop a comprehensive RPA implementation plan. It should cover all aspects of the project — process analysis, technology selection, development, testing, deployment, and maintenance.
- Remember about proper governance and compliance. All RPA processes should adhere to regulatory requirements and internal policies so that the whole operation stays within legal and ethical boundaries. For this, establish controls like access restrictions, change management procedures, and audit trails.
- Invest in training and upskilling your workforce. RPA implementation requires a multidisciplinary team of business analysts, developers, and subject matter experts (which you can outsource). Still, you’ll need to train your employees to understand the technology and how to work with it effectively.
It’s important to note that there are additional considerations that vary depending on the specific application of RPA. For example, if you’re trying to automate customer-facing operations using RPA, consider the need for personalization and a human touch.
Overcoming the Roadblocks to RPA in Healthcare
One of the major roadblocks is the integration of RPA with legacy systems. Healthcare organizations can have multiple legacy systems that aren’t easily compatible with modern automation technologies. This requires specialized expertise, but integration is usually possible.
Another roadblock to address is scalability and adaptability. Solutions in healthcare must be flexible and adaptable to accommodate changing processes. In order for RPA to work in this industry, consider adopting a modular approach that can be configured and combined in different ways.
Another thing worth discussing is that healthcare professionals can be hesitant about new technology. Sometimes, it’s coming from the fear that new tech will replace their jobs or compromise patient care. But with adequate training and support, the staff will know how to use RPA safely and effectively. You can even involve healthcare providers in the design and implementation of RPA solutions.
Last but not least, data security and patient privacy are critical. Organizations must comply with strict regulations and standards, like the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, General Data Protection Regulation, Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act, etc. It’s better to leave this task to a team that understands the regulatory landscape.
Limitations of RPA
While RPA has many benefits and some of its obstacles have solutions, there are certain limitations that the technology can’t overcome:
- Can’t handle complex or unstructured tasks.
- Dependent on structured data and processes.
- Requires significant setup and maintenance.
- Lacks cognitive abilities.
For some tasks, you’ll need other technologies or even human intervention.
Trends and Opportunities Ahead
One of the biggest trends in RPA is its integration with artificial intelligence and machine learning.
By combining RPA with AI and ML, you can go around some of the limitations and automate even more complex processes.
For example, you can extract data from documents with RPA, while AI and ML will make predictions about future outcomes.
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It’s important to highlight the role of RPA in digital transformation initiatives in hospitals. Without the use of RPA, resources are tied up in repetitive and time-consuming tasks. This leaves little time or resources for other critical implementation tasks. So, the opportunity here is that you can use RPA as a stepping stone to achieve larger digital transformation goals.
There is also potential in the areas of telemedicine and remote patient monitoring. As mentioned earlier, you can use it for administrative tasks like scheduling and billing. But it’s worth exploring other applications for RPA, too, such as keeping track of their vital signs and alerting healthcare providers about any alarming changes.
Case Study of Effective RPA Integration in Healthcare
One of the real-life examples of RPA in healthcare is the NHS. The NHS has found innovative ways to implement RPA across all parts of its operations, from the front office to the middle office and the back office. The organization has an automated system to manage appointments and patient records, uses RPA alongside Intelligent Automation risk factor monitoring, and keeps track of joiners and leavers in HR.
The NHS’ adoption of RPA has proven to be a game-changer, not just in terms of cutting costs but also in improving the overall quality of care. The NHS has found the deployment of RPA to be so beneficial that they created a guidebook to help other organizations take the leap, too.
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Overall, the use of RPA services for the healthcare industry frees up professionals to focus on more complex and value-adding tasks. They’re no longer distracted by routine and repetitive tasks. And so, this opens up new opportunities for healthcare organizations to improve patient care and achieve better outcomes.
But it’s important for organizations to carefully plan how they’re going to implement and sustain RPA. The plan should take into account the technological, organizational, and regulatory challenges that may come up. And if done the right way, these programs will benefit both providers and patients. Let’s discuss how to manage it today.