Will We Sustain the Gains in Digital Health?

We are in a better position for dealing with COVID-19 now than we were in March. We’ve seen telemedicine evolve to its rightful place in healthcare and reimbursement parity is being considered nationally. We found out that we could work from home, even in areas and departments that never considered doing this pre-pandemic. And we realized the benefit of using machines to complete tedious tasks that weighed down people and process. But will we sustain the gains in digital health?

The Tsunami of Telehealth

Sometimes it takes a crisis to shift our thinking, and in this case, the shift was long overdue. We accepted telehealth as a viable, effective method of patient care during COVID-19. The Massachusetts’ medical board issued its first-ever telehealth policy, establishing a regulatory framework for telehealth and reimbursement parity. Governor Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan signed into law a package of bills providing more Medicaid coverage for telehealth, remote patient monitoring, and asynchronous texting platforms. And a bill was introduced this week to eliminate most restrictions on the use of telehealth in Medicare. It can take time to establish the necessary technology infrastructure, recruit providers for virtual visits, educate patients, and negotiate coverage, so there are still a few kinks in the chain, but for the most part telehealth makes a valuable contribution to coronavirus screening, testing, and treatment efforts. Clients have enlisted our help to navigate connectivity barriers like portals, lab order entry, and reporting to the EHR, making the process more fluid and relieving some of the challenges. As the possibility of another “shutter in place” may limit in-office care options, telehealth is “virtually perfect” in today’s healthcare landscape. As we move forward, the hope is that we will continue to realize the benefit of a technology that’s been available, yet underused, for the last 20 years.

Injecting RPA Into Daily Tasks and Processes

We’ve seen the benefit of injecting RPA capabilities into daily reporting needs, speeding up the process and ensuring 100% accuracy. Recent changes to lab result reporting were enacted by HHS, because labs “were not reporting data fast enough.” So, hospitals and health systems turned to Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to speed up the process of reporting data to multiple agencies. This was done without placing additional burden on the already overwhelmed health system staff. Automation pushed the same reports to state and local authorities, and became a perfect digital ally. Is it time for machines to take over routine and repetitive tasks without investing in yet another big software project? We’ve seen the benefit of offloading “point and click,” or “copy and paste” tasks to machines, in thousands of applications running at hundreds of hospitals and health systems every day. This is another digital health diamond that’s been around for over 25 years, but has grown and evolved into a necessary component of everyday efficiency due to the pandemic. Will it continue to grow? A study conducted by Forrester finds that nearly 50% of businesses will increase automation adoption due to COVID-19.

Accelerating the Need to Do More With Less

One of the challenges we’ve overcome during the past 5-months is the ability to do more with less. Reduced staffing, leaner revenue cycle departments, and increased risks have pushed us to consider the role that machines can play in process fulfillment. “Eighty-one percent of CFOs and senior leaders said there was an absolute and immediate need for digital transformations for the long-term survival of their organizations,” according to Healthcare Finance. Automation cuts through the complexity of process tasks and eliminates the redundancies associated with manual data entry, empowering human workers, not replacing them. This has been especially helpful for revenue cycle management tasks, supply chain and materials management, and portal and kiosk connectivity. The pandemic brought to light a sense of urgency to quickly adapt to changing conditions. The projects below have proven to be the most impactful. What we are seeing as a trend at Boston Software Systems are clients who had previously implemented an RPA strategy are now looking for additional departmental wins, having realized a fast ROI in one or more of these areas:

  • Revenue cycle transactions, tasks, updates, and reporting
  • Patient registrations, kiosk, and portal data
  • Centralized data from multiple areas/units/facilities impacted by COVID-19
  • HR and employee health functions, on-boarding, and healthcare hiring
  • Materials management and procurement in supply chain and medical supplies

As the world continues the fight with COVID-19, it is tempting to imagine a post-COVID future that includes these silver linings. Our continued hope is that adoption of digital health technologies will continue and improve to the lasting benefit of the global healthcare system, enabling people to focus on patients, not processes.

Why Boston Software Systems?
Give us 30 minutes to explore your most time-consuming workflows and learn how we can provide a great return on investment (ROI) with automation. With over 95% of our projects completed in under 30 days, savings are right around the corner.

We can get the process started quickly so you can get back to caring for patients: 866-653-5105. We’re also available to connect via Twitter, @bossoft.

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