by Linda Stotsky, Content Marketing Strategist, Boston Software Systems
May 2020 – As reflected in February’s Healthcare Musings, “Healthcare AI is here to stay;” artificial Intelligence (AI) is being referred to as a “must have” for technology vendors looking to make their claim in the Health IT market. AI in healthcare is expected to reach $6.6 billion by 2021, according to industry estimates. Even more staggering, Accenture predicts that “the top AI applications may result in an annual savings of $150 billion by 2026.” We are clearly in the learning period of applying the value of AI to healthcare, including its limits in terms of usability, affordability, and the range of services that lend themselves to true AI enablement.
A more relevant topic, at times mistakenly referred to as “AI,” is healthcare automation. Automation takes place when manual tasks are reduced by the use of technology. Automation in healthcare is being touted as the “missing piece of usability,” when applied to multiple projects like data migration, revenue cycle tasks, and population health initiatives. Yet, many people aren’t aware of the additional benefits of adding automation to a digital health strategy. Automation simplifies the “back and forth” that human workers experience when they have to access information in multiple systems, applications, or on multiple screens. It cuts through the complexity and finishes the task, the same way an employee does. The difference is in time and accuracy.
In manual data entry, a person may be required to check several different screens, systems, or databases to retrieve the information necessary to complete the task. By offloading this “tedious tasking” to a machine, or “digital employee,” the same information can be processed in a fraction of the time, searching multiple databases, applications, and web programs, as needed. Multiply this by the thousands of process tasks in the health system and it’s easy to see the benefit. It’s about empowering people so they can turn their focus to patients rather than paperwork.
While many areas make perfect sense for the addition of automation, let’s take a look at some of the lesser known areas where automation can have an impact on efficiency and productivity.
Telehealth services allow patients to be seen virtually, despite barriers to physical settings. In telehealth, the need for seamless communications and connections spans multiple elements of the care delivery process, like lab orders, revenue cycle and reports. Without EHR and telehealth integration, providers have to enter the same information multiple times. Automation brings a competitive edge to the process, by completing this manual tasking, without the addition of FTEs. Information is entered in lab portals, EHR systems and reports, without increasing the human burden of manual, tedious tasking. The patient and provider experience is streamlined, manual data entry errors are eliminated, and the efficiency of virtual care is maintained.
Supply chain is an essential link for all programs and services offered by a hospital; hence, managing support the supply chain function can positively impact other costs and reduce administrative burden. Operating room expenses make up roughly 50% of total hospital supply costs. Inventory may include thousands of products housed in multiple locations. Process automation is a pivotal solution to economically accelerate, organize, verify, and execute the exchange of information to ensure operating room inventories are maintained. Automation brings a 24/7 digital workforce, checking supplies, placing orders, eliminating errors, and increasing productivity.
Password and Change Management
Automation is a pivotal resource to offload administrative tasks during change management. When a new employee is onboarded, an automation can launch a network account, open a network folder, add permissions, register the user, map network drives, and re-sync password maintenance tasks so the user retains a single password identity.
Automation is also a helpful ally in software updates and patches. You can load or update software across multiple intricate platforms with interconnecting components across an entire health system, with a minimum of steps and maximum efficiency, speeding uniform access and end user adoption.
Revenue Cycle Optimization
The revenue cycle is laden with manual data entry, corrections, searching and inputting data from multiple websites, payers, and clinicians. It is no surprise that automation can easily “off load” some of the heavy lifting from HIM departments. This type of automation allows people to focus on the human interaction required to discuss specific issues. Tasks like comparing and contrasting data elements are better left to machines, which can work 24/7 with no time off and complete organizational tasking much more efficiently.
Healthcare automation is not as expensive as an AI investment. It is quickly implemented, flexible, adaptive, and offers a sizable return on investment. For not a large initial investment, healthcare organizations can take one small area, try automation, and after seeing the benefit, apply it to additional areas. In today’s time of increased demand, fewer resources, social distancing, and short staffing, a digital workforce only makes sense.
About the Author
Linda has spent the last 25+ years focused in healthcare and health information technology, working to deliver innovative solutions that help make the health system, hospital and provider organization increase usability and adoption of technology solutions. She has held roles at organizations from startups to Fortune 500 firms, working one-on-one with providers and C-Suite, equipping her with a unique perspective into clients’ challenges, and enabling her to formulate solutions to meet their needs. She has received industry recognition as a thought leader and global social ambassador.
She currently leads strategic content marketing efforts at Boston Software Systems, a healthcare automation company with 30 years of experience delivering focused healthcare solutions. Boston Software Systems has over 4,000 automations, running daily, in hospitals, health systems, and partner technologies across the United States and throughout the world, supporting many of the nation’s leading healthcare systems and services. As the pioneer of healthcare-specific Robotic Process Automation, Boston Software Systems is a trusted, secure choice for hospitals, health systems and technology partners, accelerating the human potential and reducing barrier to workflow, connectivity and performance.