The COVID-19 pandemic placed additional pressure on CIOs to accelerate their digital transformation efforts. The unparalleled demand for services, facilities, staffing, and public health tracking created chaos in healthcare.
Critical areas of focus like telemedicine, lab testing, and revenue cycle management required efficient processes be implemented at warp speed. There were no longer continued discussions around the ‘possible’ benefit of digital health solutions, they were needed now. Hospitals and health systems were forced to take urgent action to reduce the negative impacts of COVID-19. A study by Ernst and Young found that during the early days of the pandemic, 43% of executives stated they would focus on prioritizing investments in digital and technology. CIOs and additional stakeholders realized that digital capabilities were key to not merely surviving, but thriving in a post-COVID world.
Maintaining business continuity during a public health crisis of this size was unprecedented. McKinsey noted in a recent study of more than 200 organizations across industries:
“More than 90 percent of executives said they expect the fallout from COVID-19 to fundamentally change the way they do business over the next five years, with almost as many asserting that the crisis will have a lasting impact on their customers’ needs.”
Healthcare was hit hard in 2020. 71 of the 200 executives stated that they “expect the COVID-19 crisis to be one of the biggest opportunities for growth” in their industry. As the world faces a new wave, with the variant numbers continuing to rise, healthcare resilience becomes a major concern. Automation can reduce manual interventions, thereby reducing disease transmission risks and empowering human staff to work from anywhere, rather than working alongside others who may be sick. We will continue to see these implementations increase as automation provides an affordable solution to maintaining business continuity post-COVID-19.
CIOs began turning to Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to keep business and service levels afloat during the crisis, allowing healthcare organizations to maintain pre-crisis productivity levels despite challenging work environments and reduced staffing. By automating one area of the revenue cycle, namely claims management tasks, Northwestern Medicine was able to transition to a work from home (WFH) environment without jeopardizing “dollars in the door.” In an interview with Brad Cox, Director of Patient Accounts at Northwestern, Matt Hawkins, SVP at Boston Software Systems, asked, “what impact has RPA had for you and the organization?” “We had two weeks to transition everyone to a WFH environment, many of whom had never worked remotely in their entire career. While the heavy lifting was going on (computers, desks, connectivity), automation took care of everything else. Once we got back to our new normal, we found that all of the tasks that kept money coming in the door had been taken care of by RPA.”
Not unlike the humorous (but true) New York Times article, “The Robots Are Coming for Phil in Accounting,” the kinds of repetitive, tedious tasks that were once left to manual data entry and days of reconciliation, are now being performed error-free and more efficiently, allowing humans like Phil to focus on tasks that require a human brain and eliminating the numbing activities that were once considered a key part of the job description.
Automation was also helpful in areas like telehealth. The number of telehealth visits increased by 50% in the first quarter of 2020, and 154% during March of 2020, according to the CDC. Because quality of care is dependent on the entire chain of data collection and processing, telehealth providers needed a way to keep up with increasing patient volumes with accuracy and completeness.The use of automation in telehealth allowed providers to order COVID-19 lab tests and receive results, without hiring additional FTEs to navigate web portals, requisitions, and claims. Automation replaces the robotic behavior of the human staff and offloads the copy/paste/tasking to the robot, which (unlike Phil) works tirelessly 24/7 and loves performing repetitive tasks.
The RPA market is forecast to grow at double-digit rates through 2021 despite the economic pressures of COVID-19, according to the latest forecast from Gartner, Inc. As we continue working toward this ‘new’ healthcare system, one in which we may fight even more public health crises down the road, let’s take the lessons learned from the pandemic to improve patient care and offload tasks that can be performed more efficiently by robots. By translating our new insights into actionable value propositions, we will be better prepared to weather the next storm.
Why Boston Software Systems?
At Boston Software Systems, we have been driving efficiency and productivity in healthcare solutions since 1985. You’ll see a wide selection of automation and machine learning vendors at #HIMSS21. While we won’t be in Las Vegas, we’re available at any time to explain why more organizations, vendors, and partner solutions turn to Boston WorkStation to bridge the gaps left by system vendors, and deliver on the promise to improve performance and reduce costs in healthcare. Boston WorkStation is a flexible, scalable solution that’s designed to work the way you do, aligning to existing business constraints and delivering exceptional results to clients worldwide.