Automation can lead to better patient outcomes in health care


By Leigh Pullen*
Monday, 26 July, 2021


Automation can lead to better patient outcomes in health care

Access to timely and accurate information is critical to health care.

Whether that’s a doctor receiving information from medical imaging and pathology labs, patients wanting information to take to specialists, or administrators ensuring accurate information is received and sent promptly, the collection and flow of data is critical for patient care and the smooth operation of healthcare services. And the COVID pandemic has exacerbated the challenges.

Intelligent automation, taking advantage of robotic process automation (RPA), can support healthcare teams in many ways. Here are five key ways automation can free up teams from time spent on repetitive administration tasks.

1. Better patient care

Medical professionals receive information from many different sources. Being able to automatically collate data coming from emails and scanned faxes, as well as reports from specialists and laboratories, ensures that the latest patient information is at the healthcare provider’s fingertips as soon as the patient enters the room.

While many hospitals and healthcare facilities have embraced electronic records systems, they still have to manage data coming in from external agencies. Intelligent automation can not only detect when new information arrives but also extract pertinent data from a scanned document, email or file and enter it into patient information systems. This reduces the time nurses and administration teams need to spend chasing up test results and reports.

Automation can also be used to help fast-track the COVID vaccination rollout. For example, when a patient receives a vaccination, that data can automatically be sent to the federal government’s vaccination register and recorded as part of the personal health record.

2. Faster claims processing

Every healthcare fund has different thresholds for what payments they provide to members. For healthcare providers, being able to give clients certainty about their out-of-pocket expenses before a procedure or treatment can reduce stress for the patient and improve customer service by providing accurate information.

The good news is that, while each health fund might be different, they each follow a set of rules when estimating charges and refunds, and processing claims. When clients provide health fund information, automated systems can apply the same rules as the funds to give the patient certainty about their costs. And once the treatment is complete, all the requisite information can be collected, collated and sent to the fund, automatically saving time.

3. Reduced administrative burden

Being able to collate and prepare COVID vaccine requests — which are coupled to Medicare numbers and other identifiers to ensure the right data lands in the right place — can be a very time-consuming and tedious task. But as the process is well understood and follows a set of known rules, it is an ideal candidate for automation.

As well as saving time, the process can run continuously and ensure errors caused by fatigue or boredom are significantly reduced. It also means staff can focus more directly on patient care rather than repetitive administrative tasks.

4. Faster and smarter logistics

Medical supply companies can also benefit from intelligent automation. The logistics behind vaccine supplies, as well as the delivery of hand sanitiser, masks, bandages, dressings, disinfectants, medicines and other important supplies, is incredibly complex. For supply companies dealing with a massive influx of orders through online channels, email, contact centres and field representatives, being able to quickly process orders is critical.

Automation can be used to collect and process orders whenever they come in, ensuring the fastest possible service for clinics and hospitals waiting for supplies. And while warehouse staff may not be working 24/7, software can work overnight, ensuring the pick, pack and dispatch teams can hit the ground running when they arrive at work rather than putting together orders from multiple sources.

5. Onboarding new health workers

One of the critical factors healthcare providers faced at the onset of the pandemic was a shortage of qualified personnel. The ability to rapidly process candidates by automating background checks can significantly reduce the administrative load on HR teams, ensuring they spend more time on interviews and other onboarding processes rather than collecting and entering data into systems.

Once candidates have made it through the selection process, everything from letters of offer and commiseration through to payroll information and induction training can be facilitated through automated processes. As well as ensuring everything is carried out as quickly as possible, this frees up management so they can focus directly on building the team.

The healthcare industry is highly dependent on the collection and distribution of information. As providers move towards electronic record systems, the ability to collect, collate and distribute that information quickly, without lots of manual handling, can deliver significant benefits to patients and greater efficiency for workers with fewer errors.

Intelligent automation using RPA can transform a medical practice, clinic or hospital, enabling better patient outcomes and allowing healthcare professionals to spend more time with their clients and less time wrangling data for administrative tasks.

*Leigh Pullen is founder and CEO of CiGen.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/faithie

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