Covid-19 is like nothing we’ve ever seen, a genuinely novel virus that is challenging medical professionals. It’s especially challenging to adapt to new modes of thinking, given how the pace of change at hospitals is usually deliberate and steady.
Patient safety is a hospital’s primary concern, and staff must be trained in emerging innovations and new technology to deliver proper care. Additionally, hospitals are already facing enormous data challenges now grapple with the need for constant test reports, tracking, and resource management. The large number of disparate systems and databases (both within hospitals and without) that must communicate securely is only growing, with additional government compliance and regulatory requirements adding to the load. But with so many lives at stake, hospitals can’t afford to roll out technology advances slowly.
Fortunately, after scrambling for months, many hospitals are beginning to find their footing. Though many new tasks and protocols associated with the virus have added significantly to the workload, hospitals worldwide have embraced a simple solution to reduce other aspects of their operations—Robotic Process Automation (RPA).
Meeting Hospitals’ Most Urgent Challenge
Covid-19 has, for many hospitals, become a catalyst for change, shifting perspectives about how rapidly new technology can be adopted. The significant financial strain the Coronavirus has placed on medical facilities worldwide has brought about a new and deep appreciation for what RPA can do. Addressing a multitude of healthcare functions while reducing errors and expenses, RPA frees up medical professionals to do the necessary work that only they can do.
But RPA is also helping to solve an even more significant challenge many hospitals encounter at a basic level: revenue.
Coronavirus has had many devastating consequences, but one that has gone unnoticed by most is that the virus crippled revenue for hospitals overnight, jeopardizing their ability to keep treating patients. Due to the possibility of infection, many medical facilities suspended all non-essential and elective surgeries. They moved patients from in-person appointments to tele-visits, which pay at a much lower rate than in-office visits. People have also been avoiding hospitals for anything that is not an emergency. Given the added expenses for the required Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and the additional devices needed to save lives, hospitals have found themselves in a perfect storm of a financial crisis.
As a result of all these factors, finding ways to cut costs that don’t impact patient care has become a new priority. Although many hospitals had already considered RPA before the appearance of Covid-19, the sudden changes wrought by the virus made many of those facilities embrace RPA with a newfound eagerness.
Complex Problem; Simple Solution
For hospital leadership, RPA represents a means to cut costs by introducing a fast, relatively inexpensive, and easy to implement solution. It dramatically streamlines processes and reduces errors in common data processes and procedures, taking repetitious and tedious tasks away from tired, overworked staff. From checking claims to processing forms, RPA is becoming a go-to technology for medical institutions, saving money even as it helps operations move faster.
RPA is especially appealing to many hospitals because it’s so straightforward and can be customized to do exactly what they need. The main idea is to code a piece of software (or “bot”) to automate a series of repetitive human tasks. For example, many times a day, medical claim forms arrive as pdf files in a folder. Previously, someone had to manually open that folder and read each form to know how to process it. They’d also have to study the information on the form to ensure it was filled out correctly with the right codes. Once validated, that person would enter data from the form into the hospital database before adding it to a workflow.
With RPA, all of that is done automatically, with little or no human intervention necessary. The software bot can check the folder every few seconds, read the pdf files, and instantly validate the contents, copying information from the form into a database while entering the correct workflow. The automation is faster, less error-prone, more secure, and more reliable than human processing. In rare cases where forms that cannot be processed automatically, anomalies can be aided by people with a fraction of their prior effort.
Hospitals are improving their process efficiency while lowering costs that help keep their doors open to new patients.
Of course, hospital IT staff can’t do this alone—they need a reliable RPA partner to guide the creation and implementation of the software—and demonstrate the savings involved. With the right expertise and experience, hospitals are getting customized RPA solutions up and running in a matter of days.
In the face of hospital bureaucracy, getting the ball rolling can be the hardest part of the process. But taking simple steps will make the transition to RPA much less of a battle. As is often the case with any corporate-oriented change, it helps start by focusing on the bottom line. The first question an RPA partner should answer is, “Can you project our cost savings?”
With an idea about how this can help revenue, start with a simple use-case example that shows how that cost savings can happen. Gaining buy-in from all stakeholders is much easier with dollar amounts and a demonstration of what the technology can do.
It helps to reinforce that RPA is a beneficial change that can have a substantial impact on revenue without a noticeable effect for patients—always a hospital’s top priority. It’s also a change that is relatively quick to implement and easy to adjust and refine to perfectly suit the facility’s needs.
With all the challenges hospitals face today, there is one solution that is very much in reach no matter the size, budget, or location of the facility. RPA is one more tool that the medical field has available to bolster its ability to fight for patients and staff.