RPA drives virtual care adoption
POSTED : August 19, 2020
BY : Ram Sathia

Every healthcare and hospital system across the globe currently find themselves challenged by COVID-19. Consequently, value-based care and healthcare efficacy have taken a back seat to the immediate needs of the pandemic. Hospitals and healthcare systems in the US are in the process of significant transformation in patient-physician engagement, scalability of healthcare operations and productivity, all while trying to achieve a lower total cost of care. Healthcare organizations are using intelligent automation to address these challenges.

With half of all healthcare companies set to invest in Robotic Process Automation (RPA) over the next three years, healthcare executives will soon need to decide what their automation priorities are, whether that’s the digital front door, back-office or key financial processes. In the past many have reached for low-hanging fruit in their intelligent automation initiatives. Patient registration, appointment reminders and coding and billing are all solid candidates for automation but to open the digital front door of healthcare will require more from both telemedicine and healthcare business operations, who often struggle with manual steps and information silos.

COVID-19’s impacts on telemedicine have been dramatic. Kaiser Permanente’s Northern California healthcare system alone has watched its daily footprint of virtual interactions go from 400 to 20,000 users. By year’s end, there will have been 1 billion virtual healthcare interactions. As COVID-19 pushes and accelerates the adoption of virtual care, healthcare organizations are discovering that telemedicine will need to be more than a videoconference call. Automation’s unique ability to stitch together improved patient outcomes and frictionless experiences at a reduced cost puts it at the center of the virtual care revolution.virtual care devices

Contactless care

In order for telemedicine to move beyond the videoconference call to a virtual experience that can contribute to healthy outcomes, providers and payers will need better digital tools. RPA can automate critical aspects of assessment, diagnosis and follow-up, making it indispensable when it comes to virtual patient engagement, specifically remote patient monitoring, through such tools as video, sound analysis and mobile-based platforms combined with machine learning and artificial intelligence. Intelligent automation can make virtual patient engagement and remote patient monitoring more effective and personalized.

Neither cost nor patient adoption are current obstacles to remote patient monitoring. The CARES Act supports remote patient monitoring development and payers often cover it under value-based contracts, while many patients already use wearables and clinical in-home devices. What’s standing in the way of contactless care is the ability of payers and providers alike to scale and make sense of all the biometric data. That’s where intelligent automation can step in to do the heavy lifting.

For most providers and payers, so much of the patient journey can be painfully manual. From fax machines to clinical devices, such as glucose meters and even weight scales, patient data can fall through the cracks or be ingested but not analyzed. To identify the signal from the noise, payers and providers will need to leverage RPA for compliance and governance. That could take the form of a bot that alerts physicians to trends in inpatient data, or by simply orchestrating workflows and inputting data into Electronic Health Records (EHRs). Automation can better facilitate proactive engagement.

Self-care

telehealth

As consumers become accustomed to self-service solutions in other aspects of their lives, they’ll come to expect these types of frictionless experiences from their providers as well. From chatbots to virtual shopping assistants, the idea of waiting for a live agent seems outdated in many industries. For healthcare, the ongoing pandemic has revealed exactly how critical self-triage can be to avoid stressing an already overwhelmed healthcare system.

Many providers use automated interactions, like chatbots, that rely on APIs to get information on COVID-19 into the hands of patients. Kaiser has a virtual physician’s assistant that dynamically responds to inputs from the patient. Catholic Health Initiatives uses a chatbot to answer commonly asked questions with up-to-the-minute information from the CDC. These types of intelligent automation appear on almost every healthcare website.

Should a patient be experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, rather than make the trip to a doctor where they could potentially infect more people, the patient can instead use online symptom checkers, like this one from Kaiser Permanente, and self-triage tools, like this sophisticated conversational AI from Microsoft, to determine next steps. Providers can then use the patient’s answers to these questions to personalize the patient experience and triage them via a virtual visit, testing site, urgent care or hospital inpatient (without waiting in the ER).

Intelligent automation ensures an enhanced experience when it comes to symptom checkers and self-triage tools. Processing questions and answers, then providing feedback and a decisive plan via a chatbot, means patients don’t have to queue in an emergency room, and it frees up doctors. Automation can also help lower payer and patient cost by steering patients to facilities that are affordable and in-network. Getting to the next best action faster helps improve patient outcomes while streamlining the patient journey.

Care on-demand

Immediate access to care is one of the defining benefits of virtual care. Previously, patients would have to schedule an appointment, travel to the doctor and sit in a waiting room, all of which could take hours out of their day. But with telemedicine, time-to-care happens in the span of minutes.

A number of providers advertise 24/7, almost instantaneous access to a doctor. Some offer e-visits or guarantee a video visit within a set amount of time. The ability to deliver a doctor in the moment requires a sophisticated array of automation to make that happen successfully.

But without patient information on hand, these instant telemedicine visits offer little more than a way to talk to a doctor. Using RPA, healthcare providers can automatically source patient records and make sure those EHRs are at the fingertips of doctors before they join the call. One step further, RPA can proactively surface patient-specific care gaps in a real-time fashion, as well as put in automatic orders for patients based on eligibility verification and patient remote patient monitoringpreferences.

The dramatic turn towards telemedicine has long tail implications, as some $250 billion in care will continue to be funneled towards virtual care post-COVID-19. The question healthcare executives should be asking themselves right now is, “Do I have the digital tools to support an effective telemedicine program?” If sophisticated RPA initiatives are not part of that calculus, then the answer is no. Look towards pursuing RPA solutions that bolster remote patient monitoring, self-care and on-demand medical support, and that will pave the way towards a greater share of virtual patients.

Learn more about BotScope®, PK’s newly patented RPA platform.


About the authors

Ram SathiaRam Sathia is Vice President of Intelligent Automation at PK. Ram has nearly 20 years of experience helping clients condense time-to-market, improve quality and drive efficiency through transformative RPA, AI, machine learning, DevOps and automation. His thought leadership on RPA has been published in ComputerWeekly and Chief Executive.

Ham Pasupaleti

Ham Pasupuleti is Vice President of Healthcare Solutions at PK. He has held strategy and operations roles in the IT industry for more than 27 years, implementing and managing business-critical applications and systems infrastructure for Global 1000 companies. At PK, he provides business analytics and optimization solutions to healthcare organizations, enabling them to transform into outcome-based delivery models that are high quality, accountable, patient-centric, and cost-effective.

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