Robotic process automation (RPA) has helped streamline operations across a wide variety of industries and organizations in recent years, and the healthcare industry is continuing to discover the benefits RPA can provide to efficiency and patient outcomes.
What is RPA?
As the name suggests, robotic process automation uses robots (really software robots) to automate certain processes and functions.
In other words, there aren’t human-shaped droids sitting at a computer; rather computer programs are designed to carry out assigned tasks under the hood.
RPA can involve multiple software robots performing different tasks or working in parallel on the same task (such as processing large volumes of data). The fact that RPA is performed by robots and not humans drives the primary reasons for using this technology.
RPA robots provide the speed, accuracy, and precision of computerized processing. Computers do not make data entry errors like humans, for example, and the processing power means they can handle far greater amounts of data in less time.
However, RPA robots cannot offer perform more advanced business functions or tasks with an inherently human required element. For example, RPA robots wouldn’t be a great choice for explaining a cancer diagnosis to a patient, providing legal advice, or demonstrating exercises to perform in physical therapy.
Benefits of RPA for Healthcare
The very notion of healthcare invokes a sense of the human touch for many people, and it can be hard to wrap one’s head around the idea that software robots could or should have a meaningful role in the delivery of healthcare.
But while many of the most iconic images of the provision of healthcare are indeed very human in nature – a doctor manually examining a broken bone, a mental health professional providing counseling services, a doctor delivering bad news to the family of a patient – there is a tremendous amount of work involved in providing healthcare, with a huge amount of that work consisting of administrative and other tedious tasks performed behind the scenes.
This work needs to be done in order to ensure acceptable healthcare outcomes. But when the work is performed by doctors, nurses, and others healthcare professionals, it means less bandwidth to provide the personal touch many associate so closely with providing care for their patients..
One of the most important benefits of RPA in healthcare is the ability to take on responsibility for the low-skill, high-volume, repetitive work, allowing the humans to focus on more important work.
Below are a few specific benefits.
Data and Records Management
Accurate and efficient records management is crucial for safe and effective healthcare operations. Unfortunately, healthcare has a mixed record when it comes to this area. The industry is notorious for poor information sharing between different healthcare organizations.
At the same time, missing or inaccurate data – even caused by an innocent data entry mistake – can have literally fatal outcomes for patients.
Fortunately, data processing and record management is perhaps the perfect use case for RPA. When it comes to crunching data, computers are vastly superior to humans in terms of both speed and data accuracy. Moreover, while most human employees loathe tedious tasks like data entry, computers don’t suffer from poor levels of engagement or emotional burnout.
Anyone who’s worked in or been close to someone who’s worked in healthcare knows it’s rarely a 9-to-5 job. Healthcare is a 24/7 business. Keeping a facility staffed with resources in sufficient numbers and representing necessary skills and competencies is a constant challenge.
RPA robots can be set up to automatically ensure optimal staffing levels and is sophisticated enough to adapt when thrown a curveball, such as a sick or vacationing team member.
HIPAA – a key medical records and privacy regulatory framework – has strict restrictions on who should have access to what patient data and for what purposes. Violations of HIPAA can include costly fines and even potential jail sentences for individuals who knowingly violate the law. Understandably, providers take HIPAA compliance very seriously. But it’s not an easy task considering the massive amounts of patient data providers are required to manage.
RPA can greatly assist with HIPAA compliance by enforcing role-based access rules, securing critical data, and keeping an audit trail documenting who accessed what records when.
Healthcare demands a tremendous number of resources, and it’s an industry that’s constantly facing staffing shortages and skills gaps. Part of the problem is that there is an overwhelming amount of repetitive work that is time-consuming but necessary in the provision of healthcare services. RPA is being leveraged with great effect by healthcare providers around the country to help address resource constraints and improve patient outcomes.
Ready to learn more? Get in touch to learn more about NITCO’s RPA services and solutions and how they could benefit your organization.