Although primary care physicians have unique interactions with each one of their patients, healthcare itself is highly repetitive. Think about it: from the time a patient enters their information into an online scheduling platform or calls their clinician’s office to schedule an appointment to when the clinician receives their payment from the patient’s insurance after their visit, the operational process is largely the same.
This doesn’t account for the time physicians and their support team take to collect all the information needed to make more accurate diagnoses, address potential care gaps, and create tailored treatment plans for their patients. The manual process adds additional administrative burdens to physicians who are already experiencing burnout rates as high as 46 percent and leaves room for human error. Accurate coding is critical because it ensures proper payment for physicians and the creation of a valid record of patient care history..
So how can robotic process automation transform these workflows to make healthcare more efficient?
Opportunities for RPA in an Independent Practice
Robotic process automation, also known as RPA, is a technology that uses software, sometimes paired with artificial intelligence, to automate repetitive business processes and handle routine business decisions. Each automated process is known as a “bot.” In a clinical setting, RPA bots can assist with repetitive data entry tasks across technology platforms, even those without robust integration capabilities. RPA certainly isn’t new, but as the technology has advanced, there have been more opportunities to use it to improve operational efficiency in the healthcare system.
On the independent practice level, RPA can be a great addition to processes such as:
Patient scheduling and check-in. Automating processes like patient scheduling and check-in with RPA can reduce staff burnout while improving the patient experience. The bot can collect patient information and assign the patient to a clinician depending on the doctor’s schedule. During check-in, RPA can reduce insurance and patient input errors by validating information from the source, such as a photo of the patient’s insurance card.
Aggregating data and creating reports. Bots can curate patient data seamlessly to help clinicians close care gaps, identify at-risk patients, and make more accurate diagnoses. RPA can also make it easy to collect data that illuminate patterns in a patient’s health history so physicians can tailor a treatment plan to that patient. For example, a bot can fetch and read a daily census report, then add that information to the patient chart, allowing physicians to easily identify a pattern of ER visits. Clinicians can also use RPA to improve healthcare workflows, such as sending follow-up messages to patients that include educational resources.
Streamlining claims management. Automating data entry reduces clerical error and practice liability. For example, a bot can easily review and update claims to ensure that the correct modifier for telehealth is included on telehealth visits. When it comes time for healthcare auditing, RPA can look for particular data elements and record the findings to alert provider offices to issues, ensuring a higher level of compliance. Without RPA, these efforts would require significant human effort or software modification by information technology vendors. RPA allows for a much faster solution, sometimes in days, not months.
Inventory management. Independent practices with large amounts of medical supplies, such as vaccines, can use RPA to automate inventory management. With RPA, clinicians can generate reports to establish their optimal inventory levels. These reports can tell clinicians what supplies they need and when so they can avoid purchasing too much or too little inventory.
What to Consider When Implementing RPA
Have a plan. In order to properly implement RPA, clinicians and their support team must clearly define what processes would be the most effective for their practice if they decide to automate. Otherwise, implementing the RPA and the IT tools needed for implementation will not be worth the investment.
Research Electronic Health Records (EHRs). Some automation is already included in certain electronic health records (EHR) systems. These automations can help clinicians gather data, create reports, and close care gaps. Clinicians should consider the opportunities and limitations of their current EHRs to ensure they are not spending money on RPA when their existing tools can provide the same functionality.
Find the right partner. When implemented correctly, RPA can help clinicians improve patient outcomes while reducing redundancy and freeing up time to focus on other areas of their practice. Choosing the right partner who has the necessary technology and expertise can provide independent clinicians with the right tools and reduce the administrative burden associated with reporting and maintaining the system.