By Dr. Lauren Vivian, CHIO, Pacific Medical Group
Over the last 30 years, robots have played an integral part in the healthcare ecosystem. Whether by aiding a surgeon in a complex procedure or executing simple tasks on their own, robots have dramatically enhanced care delivery. Today as healthcare organizations face COVID-related staff shortages, clinician and staff burnout, and overall decreased productivity, they are looking for robust solutions.
Robotic Process Automation (RPA), the hottest digital trend, is a user-friendly option that automates specific redundant tasks that lead to overall efficiency and employee satisfaction. Hence, the rapid adoption of RPA over these last few months. Yet, a study found that 30 – 50% of initial RPA projects fail, which may explain why several companies have not made the transition. For those organizations contemplating RPA for their infrastructure, there are some things you must consider before leaping into the process.
What is RPA?
RPA is often confused with another emerging technology, artificial intelligence (AI). While both AI and RPA are two forms of automation that often work in concert, they approach tasks quite differently. AI uses machines to simulate human intelligence. In contrast, RPA uses software robots to emulate human behavior. These robots complete repetitive mundane tasks with increased speed and accuracy compared to that of a human. In simplest terms, AI is the brain of an operation, but it cannot get tasks done without the representative hands and feet, RPA. Several companies are harnessing the synergistic effect of pairing AI with RPA, but as you can imagine, this collaboration comes at a hefty price tag.
Benefits of RPA
Since its inaugural phase, RPA underwent several iterations to evolve into a system that delivers end-to-end processes that reduce healthcare inefficiencies. By replacing human input in areas that add little value but consume considerable time and resources, RPA can provide an ROI less than six months after launching. It’s impressive considering traditional automated IT solutions, which are costly and time-consuming to implement, do not generate the same returns as quickly. All these features combined with the ease with which RPA is integrated into existing systems without disturbing essential functions is one of the many reasons adoption is expected to increase by 72% within the next five years. With a reduced cost and timeframe to that previously required by other digital tools, RPA is transforming workflows and facilitating the emergence of new roles.
Some of the top benefits of RPA in healthcare are eliminating human errors, improved patient experience, reduced costs, increased employee productivity and satisfaction, and improved compliance.
Is RPA a Good Fit for Your Organization?
RPA uses in healthcare include streamlining claim management, improving revenue cycles, and simplifying patient appointment scheduling. Before your organization deploys RPA, it must identify its goals with automation. With so many technological innovations in healthcare ending up in the IT graveyard, it is critical not to overinflate the capabilities of RPA.
To determine whether RPA is a good fit for your organization, start by answering the following questions:
- Are there clearly defined processes that your company would like to automate?
- Can the associated workflow for those processes be reduced to a few clearly defined steps?
- Do the steps involve a significant number of repetitions?
- Can the steps be performed without applying critical thinking?
- Are the processes scalable across the entire organization?
If you answered no to any of those questions, RPA is not a good fit for your organization. There is no question that RPA is a powerful digital tool, but it can also cause long-term detriment to your business if misused.