Robotic Process Automation is the fastest-growing segment of the global software market today to the considerable benefit of human employees and healthcare patients. Although its adoption is still slowly permeating the healthcare field, the ongoing global health crisis has catalyzed technological transformation and fast-tracked the many applications for RPA across the industry.
With a combination of workflow execution and user interface recognition, RPA can mimic the keystrokes and mouse clicks a human would use to execute specific, repetitive tasks. With RPA, healthcare organizations can optimize outputs and costs while enabling human workers to spend their time and attention on higher-value activities.
Both incumbent healthcare organizations and new startups entering the field should understand the increasing importance and application of RPA across the care delivery value chain in order to identify new opportunities to improve the healthcare experience.
RPA Healthcare Automation Use Cases
There are many ways RPA can be applied to improve both front-end and back-end office activities in healthcare. McKinsey predicts that 30% of tasks in a majority of occupations can be automated, and RPA is a leading solution to get us there.
Some of the most prominent use cases for RPA in healthcare include:
- Patient Scheduling – RPA robots can automatically schedule patients for appointments at optimized times, or they can gather all of the information points, like name, concern, insurance, and notes, and compile it in a report, making it simple and easy for scheduling personnel to find the best time for the appointment.
- Claims and Billing – Managing claims and bills are complicated administrative processes due to the various sub-processes within them, such as inputting claim information, dealing with insurance appeals, and following up on payment. RPA can automate these sub-processes, performing error-free data entry and freeing administrators from the responsibility of these monotonous tasks.
- Optimized Compliance – All healthcare activities and patient logs must be carefully tracked and documented to maintain regulatory compliance, a difficult task with many moving parts. RPA software can create well-structured, fully detailed logs and organize them appropriately to prepare healthcare organizations in the case of an audit.
- Large Scale Health Plan Implementation – RPA’s effective application in improving the management of patient records creates an opportunity to support the large-scale implementation of patient-specific health plans.
- Care Cycle Quality Improvement – RPA can take the massive amounts of data that healthcare providers collect from patients each day and optimize it to provide more relevant insights and perspectives. Improved data analytics increases the accuracy of diagnosis, thus creating more custom-tailored treatment plans. Automated data tracking also allows doctors to invest more of their clinic time engaging with patients directly.
Market Growth – One of the Fastest Growing Markets of 2021
While RPA was slowly making its way into the healthcare field in 2019 and early 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic propelled its adoption in order to address the myriad of challenges and sudden need for rapid transformation, and it’s now one of the fastest-growing markets of 2021.
In 2020, RPA in healthcare had a market size valued at $1.13 billion and it is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6% to reach a market size of $1.83 billion by 2028. The market’s primary driving factors include the rising hospital capacities due to coronavirus cases, the increasing demand to automate back-office processes such as claims and billing, the need for large-scale patient monitoring and massive data management, the renewed relevance of telehealth, and the healthcare worker shortage aggravated by the pandemic.
RPA Healthcare Trends
A Gartner study predicts that half of healthcare providers in the US will invest in RPA by 2023, up from just 5% in 2020. These investments will aim to improve both front- and back-office processes, creating a better patient experience and more streamlined, engaging work for administrators and providers.
Some of the most popular RPA trends in healthcare currently include:
1. On-Demand Therapy and Doctor’s Appointments
COVID-19 has led to an increased demand for telehealth or telemedicine solutions like Better Help, which offer remote healthcare alternatives.
One trend we’re seeing among telehealth providers is the adoption of RPA technologies to streamline the onboarding and management of these high volumes of patients that would otherwise overwhelm administrative or contact center employees. RPA technologies can automate the new patient documentation and registration as well as the organization and management of patient data, eliminating admin work for providers and allowing them to treat more patients per day.
2. Improving Patient Experience
Healthcare organizations are utilizing RPA to improve the patient experience from start to finish, removing friction and frustration that often accompany healthcare activities while cutting unnecessary costs. By streamlining the paperwork processes of the patient experience, providing clinicians with more relevant and accessible data, and freeing up providers to spend more time engaging with patients, patients experience a higher standard of care and more pleasant healthcare interactions overall.
3. Patient Discharge Instructions
Managing patient care after discharge has been an ongoing challenge for hospitals, as it’s nearly impossible to check to ensure that every single patient is adhering to their specific discharge instructions such as prescription schedules. RPA bots are finding great use in following up with patients to remind them about any prescriptions ready to be picked up as well as upcoming appointment reminders. They can move through large lists of patients and notify each one without error or mistake, a task that is otherwise fraught with human error.
Staff and Administrative
The healthcare industry used to rely heavily on administrative workers to manually schedule appointments, but the sudden influx of patients needing care prompted by the pandemic led many to rethink their scheduling activities to find new efficiencies. A top trend today is the use of RPA robots in appointment scheduling to optimize clinic schedules, improve no-show rates, and reduce manual data entry.
2. Billing and Claims Processing
For healthcare administrators, medical billing can feel like a treasure hunt, searching for miscellaneous information from various sources and submitting it to receive reimbursement for services covered by insurance. Early RPA adopters in the field are starting to implement RPA medical tools to automate the data aggregation process, making claims submission much simpler.
As a secondary benefit, these robots are also making costs more transparent for patients. In one example, an RPA and AI claims evaluation tool developed by Baylor Scott & White Health has been able to reduce the amount of time it takes to calculate the cost of service from 5-7 minutes to nearly automatically without human involvement.
Other RPA tools, such as the ones integrated into Care1st Health Plan Arizona’s claims management activities, are minimizing the time it takes to process and check the status of a claim, reducing it from 20 seconds to just 3 seconds.
3. Compliance Management
Maintaining compliance and meeting patient standards for information management is more than just a regulatory matter, it’s also a matter of profitability and industry reputation for healthcare organizations. Compliance checks managed by humans always come with the risk of human error, but RPA medical robots can maintain pristine activity logs while preventing data breaches by hard-coding role-based access controls into the machines. This can be a huge cost saving for businesses, as penalties for HIPAA violations can range from $1,000-$100,000 depending on the severity of the breach.
What’s to Come in Healthcare Robotics Process Automation
As a younger, smarter, and more integrated form of traditional healthcare software, robotic process automation solutions can lessen the burden on the US healthcare sector and improve the patient care experience by curing system inefficiencies and reducing the strain on administrative medical personnel. These direct improvements on both staff-facing and patient-facing tasks directly enhance the standard of care and patient experience while eliminating administrative friction and reducing cost.
While some may try to argue that automation takes away human jobs, it couldn’t be further from the truth. RPA adoption allows humans in the healthcare field to become more engaged with their work, freeing them up to spend more time on positive patient outcomes because the mundane time-consuming tasks are no longer their responsibility. This exemplifies the curiously humanist outcome of RPA integration – technology makes humans even more valuable.
There’s still much to be done in terms of evolving the healthcare industry through advanced technologies, and in the next several years, we’ll see more and more investment into RPA by providers who want to be at the forefront of healthcare innovation. Even later adopters will begin to see the value in basic automation tools – without them, they’ll begin to fall behind in the competitive landscape.
Both today and in the future, RPA will continue to provide a strategic advantage within the marketplace. As an angel investor, I’ll be watching for emerging, applicable, and provider-validated RPA solutions that have the potential to revolutionize the healthcare industry as we know it.
If you have a brilliant RPA solution for the healthcare sector, reach out to MacDonald Ventures.