Automation of certain administrative tasks and processes can help healthcare organizations get through the pandemic and achieve long-term gains.
It would be an understatement to say healthcare organizations were uniquely challenged by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. They were singularly affected.
The healthcare industry experienced significant volatility during the past year – many services were scaled up and others were ramped down within organizations. It’s also important to note that the areas in which demand increased rarely resulted in better margins. In fact, the pandemic caused severe financial losses for some organizations.
Also, hospitals and health systems had the considerable responsibility of providing care for people who had the virus (intensive care unit beds) and accommodating other patients who were afraid to get it (telehealth) – all the while conducting their business in new way (remote workers).
All of these factors put substantial pressure on organizations in an industry that historically has struggled with distinct financial and operational challenges. How can they adapt to this major shift in a way that isn’t merely reactive but drives positive, sustainable change? The answer, in a couple of words, is healthcare automation.
Here are a few reasons why organizations should explore investing – or investing further – in healthcare automation for certain tasks and processes.
1. Score easy productivity wins on basic administrative tasks
Several of the nonclinical parts of healthcare are task-oriented, meaning they’re low-hanging fruit for efficiency and consistency via automation. Many healthcare leaders already recognize this – in fact, 42% of respondents to a survey conducted at the 2020 Crowe Healthcare Summit said they’ve already invested in this type of healthcare automation. Payroll, budgeting and reporting, cost to collect, and other basic activities that involve a relatively simple transfer of data are all possibilities here. The areas of revenue cycle, cash reconciliation, and credit balance processes also are ripe for automation.
2. Standardize and speed up complex but repeatable processes
While many leaders are excited about the potential for automation in healthcare, there’s some skepticism about how much it can actually accomplish beyond simple tasks. That’s understandable: Some of the early robotic process automation providers had a hard time delivering on their promises to healthcare organizations. Automating complex, multipart processes is possible, but organizations shouldn’t just dive right in or they’ll risk getting something wrong or missing out on a significant benefit. The approach here should involve a strategic assessment of current operations, including a look at resource allocations and staff time, as well as optimization and standardization of the processes that will be automated.
3. Help solve labor problems
The sudden imbalance in the clinical operations of hospitals and health systems creates a personnel imbalance throughout the rest of the organization. If certain administrative employees are underutilized right now, organizations might be able to automate much of what they currently do and transition them into other roles. Also, healthcare finance and administration are specialized fields, and finding the right talent can be a challenge in any market. Healthcare automation might mean organizations can do more with the employees they have instead of hiring new ones.
4. Get better data to drive better strategies
Healthcare automation (also known as intelligent automation) can provide financial and other organizational data that’s timely and trustworthy. These data science insights can help improve strategy in the form of better, faster decision-making. Better strategy can help drive better margins. It’s a long-term investment that generates returns and gives organizations a competitive advantage over those that do not automate.
Remember – the barriers to entry on automation aren’t that high. And while it might seem like a struggle to take on anything new right now, healthcare automation could save organizations a great deal of time, money, and headache in the long run.
The journey to automation in healthcare