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By Neil Parker, GM EMEA, Laiye

Healthcare organisations worldwide are due a revamp. As a result of COVID backlogs, the healthcare sector is desperately trying to catch up with those patients who were unable to secure appointments. A recent report from Institute for Public Policy Research states that more than one in 10 people in England are waiting to receive care. This was caused by a range of issues that have been only exacerbated by the pandemic. These primarily include unbalanced budgeting due to poor funding and growing staff shortages as everyone from GPs to heart surgeons opt for jobs with higher pay and shorter working hours. These factors starkly bring to light the pressing need for innovation in the healthcare sector. The answer may lie in Intelligent Automation as a way to address the vacancies that need to be filled to provide support in roles that have many repetitive IT processes, which today number over 40,000 within NHS Digital!

The next stage for healthcare: Automation

In some respects, it can feel like technology has advanced so far, with capabilities that were unimaginable even a decade ago. Many are left questioning why healthcare organisations have been slower to modernise administrative technologies, even as they improve patient-centric technology. Now with the ever-growing demand in the healthcare ecosystems, automation and AI are the technologies delivering some of the greatest results.

Automation can revolutionise the healthcare sector by helping meet ever-growing patient expectations and creating a seamless system that people can rely on to get their jobs done and better serve patients. Reducing waiting lists for important surgical procedures and improving the reliability of information pertaining to patients are only the beginning of what automation can do for healthcare.

Intelligent Automation allows healthcare organisations to eliminate repetitive, cumbersome tasks, streamline operations, and better handle emergencies. It is also a clear answer to solving workforce skill shortages – carrying out general administrative tasks such as maintaining patient records, assigning hospital staff, efficiently allocating resources like medicines, and monitoring proof of eligibility for care are crucial yet resource-heavy elements that can be done at a greater speed with less error through Intelligent Automation.

The benefits to healthcare professionals

Automating repetitive and time-consuming tasks allows medical staff to focus on providing care and spend more time on what they do best – helping others and saving lives. For example, multiple third-party systems need to communicate with each other, something that is often tricky and hard to operate. A report by the BBC found that IT systems in the National Health Service (NHS) were so outdated that healthcare staff have to log in to up to 15 different systems to be able to do their jobs to the best of their ability. All of this could be simply automated, as the software Robot [or BOT] would take care of the secure process. This makes processing data manually inefficient and likely to be full of errors, and potential security breaches, as passwords, will be simple to be effective across multiple user-driven systems, not to mention the time spent by medical staff trying to use these systems properly.

Intelligent Automation can be seamlessly integrated with these systems to automate processes and make operations more efficient and accurate.

The benefits to healthcare organisations

Tightening budgets are a constant worry to many healthcare organisations like the UK’s NHS. In the aftermath of the pandemic, these worries are at an all-time high with some health improvements in reverse. Incorporating Intelligent Automation has long-term budget-saving benefits such as decreased errors and admin time, which increases time spent on patient and health outcomes. Intelligent Automation not only helps improve ongoing administrative issues but opens up the possibility to enhance other aspects of healthcare, such as providing more tailored treatment to patients, and an overall better experience.

The benefits to patients

Patient experience is essential to the healthcare mission, and Intelligent Automation helps improve the quality of care a patient will receive. By reducing administrative lag, medical staff are more readily available and sharper, unburdened by time-consuming and frustrating admin work – meaning they can spend more time with patients. Automating processes has the power to enrich the patient experience by ensuring people are seen quicker and more efficiently – reframing the narrative away from long waiting lists and poor care pathways to a more positive and helpful one.

Intelligent Automation is also a benefit to a patient’s own admin. Long forms and hidden costs can be cumbersome for anyone going through a difficult time. Through a chatbot interface, patients are able to submit claims at a much faster and easier rate. This allows them to get constant status updates and allow claims to be fulfilled automatically through said chatbot, rather than spend a lengthy amount of time on the phone or dealing with mail-in forms.

Intelligent Automation: The route to future-proof success

The healthcare sector is still in survival mode and focusing on recovery is simply no longer enough. Patients deserve more. In order to find a sustainable, long-term solution, healthcare providers must look to new ways to reduce the strain on the system and provide better care. Improving the overall patient experience is crucial for revolutionising the healthcare sector. Intelligent Automation is the perfect solution that is still being overlooked.

Dealing with the perception that Intelligent Automation causes job losses

It is a common myth that Intelligent Automation will cause job losses, and it is this myth which can cause projects to fail from the outset as certain user groups may not have been included in the original workshops or discovery meetings. It is critical that all user groups understand the obvious benefits that automation brings; better compliance, lower costs of process outcome, higher levels of productivity as software robots don’t sleep, take breaks or holiday, and the more sophisticated AI-powered robots and Chatbots also learn and evolve on the ‘job’.

So, what happens to the people involved in the process being automated? In many cases the automation is not about pure cost savings and sacrificing heads to provide an ROI to the business – it’s not that simple, although legacy RPA vendors did feed that route to market. I believe that the automation of processes can fuel and provide the financial efficiencies that fund innovation, and drive expansion or M&A opportunities for businesses, and that the people involved take new more valuable roles attending the automation process and/or signing off stages of the new processes as a simple example.

I have seen companies use automation to bring together divisions and centralise processes such as accounting, or invoice processing into a central team that controls and monitors the automated and scaled process – driving savings and not removing headcount. The healthcare sector must look to new ways reduce the strain on the system and provide better care. Improving the overall patient experience is crucial for revolutionising the healthcare sector. Intelligent Automation is the perfect solution that is still being overlooked.

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