In the transition to value-based care, talent management is critical. It is equally as important as cost, quality and patient experience. But one of the biggest challenges facing health organizations is employee disengagement or burnout while trying to satisfy all the demands that come with population health, value-based reimbursement, patient centricity and changing compensation models.
However, technology gives us a solution. Many of the most glaring pain points in healthcare talent management can be solved by taking robotic tasks out of human job responsibilities. This is done through the support and automation of activities that capture and move data.
Robotics process automation (RPA) is about to transform the way people work in healthcare. RPA is a software solution that mimics work done by humans, but operates in the background, completely invisible to patients. For example, RPA can replicate the work that a claims agent performs by moving from one application to the next, gathering and making decisions based on the data accumulated. It can also perform clinical-related tasks, such as using outputs from health monitoring devices to update electronic health records. Essentially, RPA allows any type of routine, rule-based work to be performed by a robot and allows that robot to mimic the interaction with systems, applications and data (and sometimes even people) in the same manner as a human employee.
Think of the possibilities across the revenue cycle—connecting with insurance companies, addressing updates to provider information, and clearing a patient financially for a procedure. In this last example, the robot would look up a procedure code, compare it to the procedure code for the patient's insurance policy, and make a rules-based "judgment" about whether there is a match. This is a routine and time- consuming task that is currently performed by people but could easily be performed by a robot.
A robot could read though thousands of medical records, look for missing information, then obtain the missing data from another system without getting bored, tired or making any mistakes. Furthermore, a robot can work 24/7, perform the work faster, and complete this mind-numbing work for less than the human cost of payroll.
But the movement to automation isn't solely about managing costs, as some critics argue. Most importantly, it is about redeploying human resources to higher-value activities. Robots allow clinical staff to avoid mindless data entry tasks, spend more time with patients, and work at the top of their licensing. Consider the effect on morale and talent retention. Employees across your organization will be more effective and more engaged when frustrating, mundane tasks are no longer part of their job descriptions. They can then focus on high-value-added tasks that require thinking, creativity, human touch and sophisticated judgment.
Another benefit is a reduction in basic medical errors, and the potential for avoiding patient harm. Pretend, for example, a patient is transferring from one health system to another. The systems' computers don't talk to each other, so information such as medical records, chart information and medication history must be manually entered into the receiving facility's computer system. Each time this is done, it creates an opportunity for errors. It's easy to see where a drug interaction could be missed, or the wrong dosage could be applied to an order. But when a computer robot handles data entry between disparate systems, errors are avoided, the information is entered faster, and a human worker is freed up to perform other duties. Machines certainly aren't infallible, but when designed right and programmed correctly, they're highly reliable.
Of course, cost savings are part of the equation. In addition to the staffing efficiencies that are created, savings are achieved by avoiding errors, corrections and rework. Recruiting, onboarding and attrition costs are saved as well. Quality increases when mistakes are avoided, and the patient experience improves when the "routine" parts of the health system operate efficiently, smoothly and mistake-free.
In the new era of value driven care, the most successful organizations will be those that can attract and retain the best employees by helping them work at the top of their capabilities. This will be best achieved when the robotic tasks in healthcare are left to the robots.