RPA and Healthcare: An Ideal Match (Part 2)
In this blog I will continue talking about RPA and Healthcare, this being the part 2 of the blog I wrote describing our visit to the HIMSS19 conference. At the time I wrote that very few vendors and participants knew what RPA was. In addition, what were most of the answers we heard regarding their approach to data migration and automation?! It was a fairly typical answer centered around custom API’s, HL7 interfaces, ETL tools and Excel spreadsheets. If I asked the same people the question today, I guarantee a few more of them would know what RPA is and potentially have an Automation strategy.
I have developed applications and worked with RPA for almost 20 years. A large amount of that time was for a scripting company that used many common RPA techniques to automate Healthcare workflows. Much of the automation work was focused on Revenue Cycle Management (i.e. Billing/AR) and Data Migrations. As RPA has become more widely accepted and increasingly more powerful, those are still two of the most highly focused area.
RPA is a phenomenal tool to work in a hybrid environment such as Healthcare IT. The amount of legacy and custom applications are abundant in this space.
In addition many of the large EMR vendors have applications that are over 30 years old. While the user interface may look more contemporary, the reality is that the back end is legacy. This is commonly referred to putting “lipstick on a pig”. While I am not against pigs or these applications at all, I figured it would serve as good imagery. This concept makes automating the applications difficult and non-standard. In addition to this, many of the applications are hosted virtually on a Citrix Server and/or VMWare Horizon. In a separate blog I wrote of the challenges of automating virtual desktops and how today’s methods are far more reliable than in the past with scripting and rigid OCR techniques.
It is my thought that as RPA is adopted in Healthcare in the coming years a majority of the automation initiatives will be focused in and around the challenges and needs in the previous paragraph. To successfully automate these areas in all areas of healthcare could mean trillions of dollars saved and eliminate so much waste and error in the current Health System. This is great news for all of us. I however would like to take it a step further.
As Machine Learning and AI advance, the implications for Healthcare are mind boggling.
ML is dependent on data and if there is anything the current EMR systems are good at doing, is collecting data. Whether a Healthcare institution has a legacy system or upgraded to a new system, most likely the data followed with it. This data contains metadata for each patient. This can include admission records, clinical data, billing data and so forth. Having this historical data can create a predictive model that is astoundingly accurate.
We recently have been working with a company named DataRobot that specializes in creating predictive models based on data. They shared a use case in which they were working with a really large Health Care practice that could staff, schedule and accurately predict the discharge schedule of their patients.
This can have cascading effects that RPA can act on.
Whether it be preparing the discharge paperwork, billing, pharmacy orders, nurse and doctor schedules and so on. With this information, a bot can act and simplify a very significant piece of the Hospitalization experience.
This doesn’t even take into consideration more intelligent models that can effectively predict drug reactions/allergies. In addition ML can be used to create a repeatable care path for certain types of diagnoses. The data is available and should be utilized for this and other means. Historical data can provide the means to eliminate waste in Healthcare and make it more effective. As important as it is to keep the systems updated with the appropriate information (that can be automated), it is just important to achieve a favorable outcome for the patient, its providers and the Healthcare institution. I have just scratched the surface of how RPA and what next generation of tools in Healthcare are available.
The future is bright and I am very hopeful; Technology such as this might be the true elixir the industry needs to reach its highest level of efficiency.
Peter S. Camp is the CTO and Founder of CampTek Software. He has been developing RPA Applications for over 15 years. For further questions, discussion or inquiry about CampTek Software Services, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.