How to Automate Healthcare Workflows and Gain a Competitive Edge

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By Timothy Partasevitch and Ambroise Couissin

The healthcare industry could save an incredible amount of money each year through automation – to the tune of billions of dollars. According to the 2020 Index from the Council for Affordable Quality Healthcare, healthcare providers in the US alone spend approximately $372 billion per annum on administration. But with workflow automation in healthcare, an extra $16.3 billion could be saved – and that’s on top of the $122 billion that current automation already saves. 

Each year, the potential savings opportunity from automation grows significantly – in fact, the $16.3 billion figure is 35% greater than the previous year’s projection. As electronically-powered transactions become more cost-efficient and manual transaction costs rise, we’ll continue to see greater and greater savings from workflow automation. 

The question is, though – what areas of the healthcare industry can benefit the most from automation? What should be prioritized? What is the current and future scope of workflow automation? To answer these questions and more, we’ve consulted with Ambroise Couissin, the CEO & Founder of Mazecare.

How Can the Delivery of Healthcare Services Benefit From Automation?

“The healthcare industry relies on coordinated efficiency for its success, for both patients and providers. Human errors, lethargic systems, and a general lack of innovation affect all ends of the workflow. 

With healthcare workflow automation, providers and their third parties can increase operational efficiency – meaning faster, more reliable services, less human error, more affordable insurance policies, and lowered costs for the health of their clients. With most things, an increase in automation means an increase in productivity”. Ambroise Couissin

Healthcare Automation Application Areas

There are 4 key groups that healthcare workflow automation can impact: patients, clinicians, administrative staff, and healthcare organizations. While there are nearly endless ways in which automation can be applied, we’ll focus on the main healthcare workflow solutions that are within reach:

Patients

  • Less time is spent at the hospital. This is due to shorter wait times in various areas: the emergency room (scan results are automatically sent to the attending physician), consultation (the automated scheduling system alerts specialists), and discharge (an automated workflow system alerts the discharge team of their responsibilities). Overall, it improves patient flow.
  • Fast and accurate diagnosis. When every minute in an emergency situation counts, quick and accurate diagnosis – and subsequent treatment – can prevent a surging health threat from progressing further. This is possible due to the features highlighted in the previous point.
  • No inconvenience during diagnostics. By wearing a medical device like a remote cardiac monitoring unit, patients no longer need to check-in at a doctor’s office. Instead, if the device detects a pre-specified condition, the unit automatically alerts the patient’s designated physician. 

Clinicians

  • Better patient information system. Primary care physicians and referring physicians stay automatically informed as their patients move between various hospital departments. 
  • Timely decision-making. Often, systemic obstacles delay the flow of information, causing clinicians to make slower decisions – thus making patient help less effective. Automation of clinical workflows makes real-time alerts and results possible, giving clinicians the opportunity to make timely decisions and provide better help at the point of care. 
  • Freeing up time. A strategic RPA (Robotic Process Automation) clinical workflow in healthcare can perform repetitive tasks, thus freeing up a clinician’s time and allowing them to focus on providing patient care. 

Administrative Staff

  • Shift change improvements. With role-based automation of schedules, there is no need to spend time updating staff schedules when shifts change. Anybody with access to the administrative system can immediately find out which staff is on-call and contact them. Administrative staff then gains a bump in productivity. 
  • Appointment reminders. Appointment calls, emails, and text reminders can be automatically sent to patients, thus freeing up lots of time for administrative staff.
  • Lighter billing workload. Because of the 24/7 working hours of revenue cycle RPA, billing backlogs are no longer an issue. Billing automation produces accurate claims that significantly reduce the number of resubmissions and denials. Thus, billers only need to spend time working with exceptions. 

Organizations

  • Increased patient satisfaction. The HCAHPS, a standardized and publicly reported scoring system of hospitals, focuses on 8 areas – 3 of which heavily improve from automation: communication with nurses, communication with doctors, and responsiveness of the staff. 
  • Greater care, safety, and outcomes are delivered. Healthcare organizations are rolling out all kinds of automation to improve the services they offer patients. For instance – smart beds can automatically monitor a patient’s heart and respiratory rate.
  • Better productivity of employees. Automation removes lots of barriers that prevent clinicians from helping people. When organizations use healthcare workflow software, care teams and support staff are able to free up time spent on manual, repetitive tasks.  
  • Greater employee retention. This goes hand in hand with the previous use case. As automation handles tedious tasks, clinicians can spend more time on their work and less on routine tasks, thus leading to greater employee satisfaction. 
  • Better control over finances. Readmissions cost hospitals huge amounts of money, but automation can significantly reduce this. For instance, in an emergency room, an RPA can flag a patient who had been discharged less than 1 month ago – thus alerting the ED staff to adjust the patient’s medication and avoid readmission. 
  • Better cash flow. Billing automation sends out bills faster, reduces errors, and significantly decreases the number of rejections and payment delays. 

How an RPA Automates Workflow

A high-quality RPA system automates all 4 areas listed above. As an example, we’ll look at Mazecare’s clinical healthcare software. You can pick and choose modules for your clinic management system in accordance with your needs; some examples include: 

  • EMR/EHR/Patient Records: All patients’ historic health and medical records are listed. What’s more, all relationships between internal staff and patients can be charted. 
  • Telemedicine: Set up teleconsultations and e-prescription services, which are powered by chats, voice calls, and video calls. 
  • Appointments: Easily drag and drop calendars to schedule staff and manage patient appointments. 
  • Pharmacy & Inventory: With this, you can manage stocks and inventory, which are directly connected with patient prescriptions. 
  • Laboratory: Manage laboratory testing, set up requests, and view results. 
  • Files: Manage the documents per branch, including those from staff, patients, and medical records. 
  • Billing: Manage all bills and invoices related to patients. 

What Are the Key Barriers to Adopting Workflow Automation in Healthcare?

“As we have seen from the adoption of operational technology across a wide range of industries (finance, regulation, property, etc.), new heights of efficiency and capability have been reached. As this is now a proven metric, it seems that the lack of technological permeation to the healthcare industry is potentially a result of complacency – or a lack of understanding of the advantages that automation provides. 

To mitigate this, the emphasis is on education – specifically, building healthcare workflow intelligence. Speaking directly to incumbents, through talks and industry exposure, or via connecting through third parties, we can demonstrate to healthcare providers the ROI of healthcare workflow optimization, as well as the capabilities it provides in terms of the expansion of services and increases in operational efficiency”.

Are Blockchain and AI Technologies Going to Be Winners in Healthcare Automation?

“For the time being, and for our validated business model, the emphasis will not be on AI or blockchain. There are many processes and functionalities in the healthcare industry that can be automated effectively via digitization – without using blockchain or unnecessarily complicated AI algorithms. 

Digitization will in itself propel the healthcare industry far enough forward for now that our focus does not need to be on blockchain or AI. We intend to make the biggest impact in the shortest time, and we can move onto AI-empowered medical practices later when the low-hanging fruits have been addressed”.

Where Will Patient Empowerment Fit Into Improving Workflow in Healthcare?

“We understand that at the center of any healthcare professional’s operation is the patient. A streamlined and efficient user journey is vital at every end of the healthcare experience – from appointment scheduling and lab tests all the way through to claim adjudication. 

We intend to keep the patient experience in the center-view of everything we build. A large part of this empowerment comes from patient engagement and user-centric systems, such as portals, apps, and management platforms. We seek to build every aspect of the patient journey from both a provider & patient perspective, automating and improving on previously inaccessible or manual tasks, putting patient healthcare in the hands of the end-user”.

What Is the Future of Healthcare Automation?

“When there is a gap in efficiency, there is an opportunity to improve. As mentioned above, the key to revealing these gaps will be educating the industry as to where improvements can be made. 

The pandemic has proven to be a significant social and technological catalyst, with many services and practices now becoming fully digital, or increasing their digital operations, due to unprecedented pressure being placed on existing workflows. As a result, healthcare enterprises are looking more and more to the next innovation to the space. 

We believe that the most important innovation will be the automation of the full patient journey – an end-to-end digital healthcare workflow management platform for the providers, third parties, payers, and end-users. While many health technicians are currently addressing aspects of this journey or providing solutions to certain or several operational inefficiencies, we believe those that show true potential are the ones with the ability to tackle the automation of the entire healthcare lifecycle. Mazecare is proud to sit in this category, and we will continue to expand our services until we are a one-stop solution for the industry”. Ambroise Couissin

Authors bio:  

Timothy Partasevitch, Chief Growth Officer at Smart IT.

Tim is a sales and marketing specialist, who solves business challenges like an engineer by focusing on data insights, analyzing what works, what doesn’t, and what can be improved from a technical and financial perspective. Over the years he has supported the transformation of new clients into long-term partners and expanded services provided in the work space, ultimately facilitating revenue generation and business success. Tim strongly believes that you can’t be in charge of the outcome and results. However, you are 100% in charge of the input.

Ambroise Couissin, CEO & Founder of Mazecare

Ambroise is a tech veteran in the Hong Kong FinTech, InsurTech & HealthTech space.

He is the founder of Mazecare, a digital healthcare platform aiming at solving inefficiencies in patient flows such as appointments, queues, invoicing, medical records, claim pre-authorization & auto-adjudication, and payments. Prior to founding Mazecare, Ambroise was the CTO of CoverGo. He also was the Head of Engineering of SoFi Hong Kong (ex-8 Securities) and the first engineer in Quantifeed. Ambroise holds a double MSc degree in Computer Sciences.

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