Ease into healthcare automation with 5 simple steps

Tracey Coyne, CPA, CHFP; Jim Hannan; and Michele Losekamp
| 6/14/2022
Ease into healthcare automation with 5 simple step

Automation has become a greater imperative in healthcare as leaders look to scale operations, improve analytic capabilities, and enhance customer experience. The manual processes found across the healthcare finance function are time-consuming and increase the risk of error. Robotic process automation (RPA) can be used to perform many of these repetitive tasks, allowing staff members to redirect their focus to more value-added activities, all while reducing costs and errors.

RPA can seem intimidating to healthcare business leaders, who might fear its perceived complexity, difficulty, and cost. But RPA doesn’t have to be complicated. It is possible to ease into RPA to gain quick wins and make lasting, valuable improvements in areas such as accounts payable, month-end close, and payroll.

The following five-step rapid assessment can help leaders jump-start their healthcare automation journeys.

Step 1: Identify healthcare automation opportunities

Identifying a process that is a good candidate for automation is an organization’s first step. Leaders should start with a process that most staff members would agree is repetitive, time-consuming, and, frankly, unpleasant. For example, consider the month-end close process and the many repetitive steps involved with pulling information from one system and validating, correcting, and reformatting it for another system. Think about the “stare-and-compare,” repetitive data entry, or other tasks that could be performed by a bot, allowing for more accuracy and efficiency and the opportunity for team members to spend their time on more value-add projects.

The process selected for healthcare automation should provide comprehensive benefits and be suitable for quick implementation (weeks versus months). During this phase, organizations should consider collaborating with third-party RPA specialists to select the best process for a quick win to motivate and inspire the team, providing momentum for the organization’s automation efforts.

Best processes to automate in healthcare

RPA has the potential to help drive efficiencies across the entire healthcare business function. Some processes are better suited to automation than others. These include:

  • Stable processes. This includes processes that are not undergoing or scheduled to undergo major changes or redesigns and that are standardized, consistent, and repeatable. If a process is unstable when it is automated, the organization will need to redo the automation.
  • Manual processes. This includes processes that involve searching for, updating, and manipulating information. Manual processes that are ideal for automation are prone to human error and typically involve a high volume of data.
  • Processes with inputs and outputs. These are processes that involve entering data or moving data between systems. If the data involved with these processes is structured, it is even more ideal. Examples of structured data include data found in a spreadsheet, in a comma-separated values (CSV) file, or in a PDF file. Processes that use unstructured data can be automated; however, unstructured data can make the automation more complex.
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Step 2: Conduct a process workshop

Once the process to be automated has been selected, the owners of that process should come together and perform a walk-through of all the steps involved. This helps the team verify that the identified process really is a good candidate for healthcare automation and sometimes reveals process issues that lead to improvement efforts. If the team decides the process cannot be automated, step one should be performed again until a more suitable process is identified.

Step 3: Map and analyze

The third step involves mapping out and analyzing the process selected for automation. Working with a solution architect from the third-party collaborator can help the team understand which healthcare automation tools will make the implementation successful and map out the overall design. The timeline, risk areas, and technical components will be shared to help piece together the full scope of the project. By the end of this phase, the organization should understand the major steps from start to finish that will bring the automation to life.

Step 4: Perform an ROI analysis

A key objective of using RPA is to achieve a good return on investment (ROI). Therefore, it’s important to be discerning about the process selected for healthcare automation so that the expected benefits are clarified and the cost to automate the process does not exceed the return. For example, an organization would not want to spend $25,000 on an automation that saves one full-time staff member only 15 minutes per month. Performing a cost-benefit analysis can help the team determine the dollar value of implementing RPA.

Step 5: Determine next steps

Finally, once the team has identified a good opportunity for healthcare automation and understands the potential ROI, the organization will need to decide whether it wants to move forward with implementation. A partnership with a third-party automation specialist can help to flesh out ideas to identify a great first automation opportunity that is a good fit, is an easy win, and has a favorable monetary impact. Such a partnership also can provide the development and technical resources necessary to see those ideas come to fruition quickly.

Jump-start your healthcare automation journey now

Automation can help address many of today’s healthcare business challenges, including financial concerns, staffing issues, and more. By conducting this five-step rapid assessment, organizations can identify quick-win opportunities for using RPA to improve the business of healthcare. Successfully implementing just one automation process that brings a high ROI can help ease organizations onto the path of automation.

Organizations ready to jump-start the healthcare automation journey should consider working with third-party automation specialists for guidance on using automation to reduce pain points and achieve successful results with minimal effort and investment.

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Tracey Coyne
Tracey Coyne
Partner
Jim-Hannan-225
James H. Hannan
Managing Director, Consulting