Process Automation in the Healthcare Industry

Dane White February 25, 2021 Healthcare

healthcare-process-automation

Looking beyond a year of immense pressure in global healthcare, these trials will undoubtedly spur brighter innovations across the healthcare industry in 2021. The pandemic revealed that no industry is in greater need of digital transformation than global medical systems — and fortunately, digital integration is on the rise across the board.

According to John Gikopolous at Infosys Consulting, 80% or more of hospital activity falls under the umbrella of operations tasks rather than direct acts of healthcare. Despite the buzz around AI in drug and disease research, it’s actually the push to automate and simplify manual processes that are most impactful today. AI aims to streamline many manual healthcare processes to save on costly issues with the quality of care and regulatory compliance.

Healthcare’s telehealth future

Telehealth has fast become a high priority during the pandemic’s in-person restrictions. Beyond making remote care accessible and viable, telehealth services have had to dial in on two key areas:

  • Ease of communication
  • Ease-of-access for patient health information (PHI) exchange

From the early pandemic to the current vaccine efforts, healthcare providers are overwhelmed with an uptick in patient interaction. Each event has caused traditional phone lines to quickly fill with requests that limited human staff alone struggle to resolve efficiently. Even telehealth apps have been inundated with patient activity due to staffing bottlenecks.

How does automation help with patient communication?

Providers that have added intelligent process automation (IPA) spend less time on repetitive, manual replies like setting appointments and providing COVID-19 safety guidelines. Specifically, chatbots work alongside human support teams to catch and resolve frequent queries — absorbing these time sinks as a result. Automated handoffs to live support with all the patient’s context can fill the gap on chatbot-incompatible requests.

How can automation boost PHI request management?

Patient health information (PHI) requests are also among the many manual tasks that gum up healthcare operations. With medical record requests expected to grow by over 30% in 2021, long processing times and requests being arduous to navigate are major concerns moving forward.

To avoid non-compliance, healthcare reps may find success by integrating IPA with electronic forms. This helps to streamline how they manage, navigate, and execute record request fulfillment. Digitizing request processes is both telehealth-friendly and enables clear checkpoints for info accuracy.

Governance and compliance

Despite gradually embracing digital for telehealth, many healthcare facilities have yet to transition critical documentation processes. Manual documentation systems often fall out of compliance due to non-standardized systems that slow response turnarounds.

Governance can pull healthcare organizations into compliance with regulatory bodies, notably in regards to:

  • Medication tracing
  • Patient records requests

How can automation help with medication tracing?

Tracing medical drugs helps to stave off the estimated 10% of global pharmacy commerce composed of counterfeits. Despite DSCSA and other acts regulating key touchpoints like pharmacies, recalls are jammed by manual process overload. Notifying all involved parties atop retrieving transaction records can be taxing at best.

To avoid missteps, automation can guide staff through the recall procedures and partner coordination. Email updates can easily be tethered to completed items on the compliance checklist.

How does automation support record request compliance?

Slow PHI requests are also constant roadblocks to compliance. Inconsistent request forms and staff unaware of accurate rights to access keep patients from their own medical data. 

Whether with HIPAA or other regulations, agile compliance starts with standardized requests. Once forms are cleaned up, offering them electronically keeps providers responsive to patient requests. IPA is an ideal bridge to connect patients to these forms via telehealth platforms. In the course of adopting these systems, healthcare providers are increasingly surprised how low-code IPA de-bottlenecks the request review process.

Quality of care

Due to manual admin processes, high-quality patient care has been an elusive goal in the current healthcare crisis. Unfortunately, this has obscured the data needed to reliably iterate care.

Fortunately, healthcare providers are typically pleased to find limited disruptions when automating backend operations. In a time when there is little to no time, IPA can deliver instant context for every patient interaction — whether in-person or online.

Being able to better serve patients one-on-one can have wider benefits across each facility’s healthcare units as well. Staff can redirect their newfound time to use the additional visibility on big picture decisions. Fewer distractions alone can free up resources for productivity improvements.

Supply chain forecasting

Lack of visibility also greatly impacts supply chain management at every level. An ever-shifting inventory of equipment, drugs, and limited staffing has only worsened during the pandemic. According to Vizient, drug shortages alone cost the U.S. healthcare system over 8.6M additional labor hours at a minimum of $360M per year.

Interdependent nodes within the supply chain have been the hardest to predict and shift. Among the most problematic response strategies, teams have either:

  • Preemptively hoarded resources to prevent shorts
  • Reactively shifted supply to meet immediate needs

Either supply changes results in bottlenecked care throughout a facility’s internal departments and the wider healthcare system. Without forecasting to anticipate looming supply chokepoints, healthcare continues to struggle to plan decentralized resources.

Facilities using IPA benefit from introducing agile visibility for proactive supply shifts. The pandemic has shown that collaborative intelligence between departments and even regional systems can save lives and lower costs. Once resources are pooled into a central view, staff can more easily respond to and coordinate supply requests. 

Using interdepartmental and intersystem trends in inventory reserves can feed into effectively forecasting options. Rapid decision-making to optimize resources, alleviate bottlenecks, and expand capacity will be key to maintaining quality care at scale, today and beyond. 

The future of manual tasks in healthcare

Ultimately, coordination and information sharing is the key to staying ahead of healthcare challenges. The future of patient care will depend on flexible tools like IPA platforms that learn and adapt at every turn of a crisis.

Today, healthcare teams are progressing by equipping frontline workers with our low-code digital process automation platform to tailor digital systems to their own workflows.

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