When Does Robotic Process Automation (RPA) Make Sense in Healthcare?

When you start talking about robotics, you always get a wide variety of reactions. Some absolutely love the use of things like robotic process automation (RPA). Others fear what these types of technologies mean for them and their careers. Many people are predicting that various robotic and AI solutions will replace much of what we’re doing in healthcare today. This causes fear in some who are afraid that means they’ll lose their job.

I personally think this fear is unfounded. However, it is fair to say that robotics and AI are going to change the way we work. I personally like looking at robots and AI as removing the repetitive tasks that no one likes doing. This vision will free up humans to do even more than they’re doing today. Plus, you’ll enjoy your job a lot more if the robots replace the mundane repetitive tasks that most people don’t enjoy.

With that said, I think many CIOs wonder where they should start. At the CHIME-HIMSS event, I ran into Lisa Esch, a Senior Healthcare Executive at DXC Technology, who shared a really practical perspective on this topic. Lisa suggested that one place a healthcare organization should consider looking at RPA (robotic process automation) solutions is wherever they find themselves outsourcing to other low cost workforces.

When you think about why an organization chooses to outsource something, it’s generally because that process is so robotic that it doesn’t need highly trained people to effectively complete the task. Repeatable tasks that don’t require human intuition are the perfect opportunities for robotic process automation (RPA).

As you develop an RPA strategy for your healthcare organization, take a look at your outsourcing strategy to find some initial opportunities.

We can also look to other other industries to understand where we’re starting to see RPA in action. Some of those include things like help desk, back office, and scheduling to name a few. You’ve likely already seen this in your personal life. Done right, it can be an effective way to quickly solve people’s problems. Done wrong, it can just make things worse.

I saw this first hand when I needed some support from PayPal. As I was looking for some help to fix a problem I saw, I was redirected to a chatbot. I offered my question and unfortunately, it couldn’t provide me an answer for my pretty simple question. However, even worse than this, when it couldn’t provide me the answer after repeated attempts it also missed the opportunity to escalate me to a human. I’d have been happy if the robot could have solved my problem. However, it couldn’t and it should have escalated me to a human who could easily solve it. However, it didn’t. It was unfortunate that what could have been a great experience left a bad taste in my mouth.

The future of robotic process automation and AI in healthcare is really exciting. However, it’s still early in the evolution of what’s possible and how to appropriately implement it in your organization. The only way to start down that learning curve is to find some initial projects you can implement today. Replacing your outsourcing with robotic process automation is a great place to start in healthcare. As you do so, you’ll learn what possible, what’s needed, and where this technology can be applied to other areas of your organization. That education will prove priceless as the robots and AI continue to improve.

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of HealthcareScene.com, a network of leading Healthcare IT resources. The flagship blog, Healthcare IT Today, contains over 13,000 articles with over half of the articles written by John. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 20 million times.

John manages Healthcare IT Central, the leading career Health IT job board. He also organizes the first of its kind conference and community focused on healthcare marketing, Healthcare and IT Marketing Conference, and a healthcare IT conference, EXPO.health, focused on practical healthcare IT innovation. John is an advisor to multiple healthcare IT companies. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can be found on Twitter: @techguy.