The bigger picture of robotic process automation in healthcare

Granted it’s not a new concept imagining robots filling the role of ‘human’ workers, but if the thought of a machine taking over your job scares you, think again.

In a nutshell, robotics process automation (RPA), “Aims to use a computer (robot) to manipulate existing application software in the same way that a person works with those systems and the presentation layer to perform a specific task.”

Forgoing the sci-fi imagery of a robot and given this definition, it’s no surprise that RPA can be extremely useful across numerous industries, especially those that rely on large, volume-intensive (read onerous and repetitive) tasks.

The use of automation within industries is not new. Think about it when you next use an ATM or are stuck listening to an automated voice recording when you call customer care, or even something as simple as using an automatic door. However, RPA’s entry into direct tasks within the workplace promises something more and exciting for the future of enterprises. And with this in mind, it almost seems like a marriage made-in-heaven when introducing RPA to the healthcare industry.

Consider some of the benefits RPA could bring to the industry. Healthcare, which involves providers, physicians, patients, and pharma companies, requires a huge volume of paperwork to be accounted and documented. From admin, payroll and HR functions, to lab work including tests and research; many of these tasks can be easily, effectively, and efficiently undertaken with RPA and can free-up a lot of time allowing ‘humans’ to focus on more strategic, creative and thought-provoking jobs.

Further, let’s not forget the whole business of healthcare insurance. The claims process is difficult to navigate even for the best of us. From billings, to submissions, to actual claims, the entire structure is built on documentation. In fact, it is almost imperative that many of these processes be automated just to reduce the time taken – for all parties involved – to get everything in order.

The good thing about RPA is that it can work across systems. Thus, unlike earlier IT-only based automation, RPA doesn’t benefit only the IT department. In fact, it can be used across functions and divisions, helping to synergize and streamline operations for the entire industry.

And what about the benefits? Well, there’s the increased turn around time for all concerned, less margin for error given that a machine won’t get bored (or inefficient) doing the same task a hundred times, as well as the added time saved to ensure healthcare practitioners can be engaged in more meaningful activities within the industry: focusing on providing quality care, while the machines can happily work on their repetitive jobs.

So is this the future of healthcare? Well, we hope so. Because it could save us ‘humans’ a lot of time and allow us to focus on using more of our grey cells. Now that’s healthcare for thought!


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