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SEPARATING THE MYTHS FROM THE FACTS: FIVE THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT RPA

To stay competitive and fiscally sound, hospitals and physician practices are turning to revenue cycle management (RCM) partners, like R1 RCM, to digitally transform their internal operations and boost financial performance. 

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To achieve this type of transformation, hospitals, health systems and group practices should look for a partner that is leveraging five types of intelligent automation technologies to elevate RCM performance: self-service platforms, cognitive automation, natural language processing, web service integration and robotic process automation, one of the most recently buzzed about technologies, and the focus of this blog. 

Robotic process automation (RPA) is the healthcare technology trend that people can’t seem to stop talking about. With the healthcare industry facing the effects of rising costs and ever-increasing complexities, RPA is helping hospitals and health systems manage large volumes of manual-processing work in a time/cost effective way. RPA is one of the fastest new technologies to adopt and can generate valuable process disruption at any organization. 

While a lot has been written about the benefits of RPA, it’s imperative to look past the hype, and distinguish the myths from the facts to find the true value. Here are five common myths about RPA, and the facts you should know before exploring this technology. 

1. Bots will replace humans

RPA automation is not meant to replace a human workforce, but rather to complement how humans work. To put it simply, bots work and people think. RPA is meant to provide an enhanced digital capability that wasn’t available to an organization before automation processes were implemented. It’s about putting the right tools in operators’ hands so that manual processes are then executed in a standardized way, freeing up staff to work on more strategic opportunities. As repetitive tasks are automated with RPA, new opportunities will emerge, and new technological roles will evolve for humans.

2. Productivity improvements will be seen immediately

Boosting productivity is often more complex than expected. Hospitals and health systems need to thoughtfully think through and identify which processes bots need to perform, and program these bots appropriately to perform these tasks. Without a clear vision on which processes need to be automated, your organization won’t be able to achieve the kind of agility and accuracy needed to report productivity gains. 

For example, if your organization can codify a particular process and assign it to a bot, this will not only create standardized operating procedures, but also create an internal operating structure that functions with precision and scale. Deloitte recently conducted a global survey of more than 400 leaders from various industries, and many leaders reported seeing payback on their RPA investment in 12 months and an 86% improvement in productivity. 

3. You need to deploy your first bot quickly

While bots can be deployed quickly, it’s more important to first set up pilot periods and have a game plan around how to scale. Pilots can often take longer than expected, and organizations need to ensure they have the right infrastructure, capabilities and resources in place before rushing into anything. Being prepared to eventually scale is also critical given that the cost per bot will decrease significantly as you increase demand and accelerate your execution speed.

Hospital and health system leaders should be working with an RCM technology partner to develop long-term RPA strategies that meet their organization’s business needs. They should also look for RCM technology partners who can deliver automation services that solve problems better and faster than a health system can do themselves, and that has the bandwidth to leverage this technology on a larger scale.

4. A lot of bots are needed in order to be successful

Don’t become mesmerized by volume. Instead, focus on utilization per bot and what business objectives the bots need to achieve. Thinking in terms of completed transactions instead of how many physical bots are needed is a better measure for understanding automation effectiveness and efficiency. For example, how many billing edits can be created in a day utilizing bots you have? How many claims statuses can be updated in a day utilizing the bots you have? Understanding the business value a single bot can bring is much more meaningful than focusing on deploying numerous bots just to have them readily available. 

5. Healthcare organizations can implement RPA and intelligent automation technologies on their own

Adding RPA capabilities to internal operations is a complex process, and it’s extremely beneficial to work with a partner who understands how automation can be applied to your internal structure and what opportunities exist based on prior experience. An automation partner should help develop a long-term strategy and know where to deploy technologies starting at the beginning of the financial experience with patient access (digital self-service platforms) all the way through the back-end billing processes to bring greater efficiencies to key RCM processes. A comprehensive and deep review of the revenue cycle process must be completed first, by a partner who has extensive expertise and knowledge of revenue cycle metrics, drivers and decencies, and knows how to implement and design solutions that will achieve improved results. This partner should also understand how to manage the revenue cycle from end to end and be able to leverage intelligent automation technology on a larger scale to help your healthcare organization. 

Organizations need a partner who can deliver expertise, as well as comprehensive, superior technology, and doesn’t leave your hospital or health system piecing together point solutions that won’t fully support your organizational needs in the long run. 

FACT: Establishing a long-term vision with the right partner is KEY

RPA provides significant digital capabilities and can deliver huge process improvements to hospitals and health systems—if planned for and implemented correctly. You don’t need thousands of bots to be successful and shouldn’t expect to automatically see results over night. More than anything, it’s important to develop the right long-term strategy for your team and find the right automation partner who can help plan, navigate and the successfully deploy RPA services for your organization. Those are facts you can trust.

Conclusion

The misinformation and myths surrounding RPA can be confusing. It can also impact an organizations willingness to modernize their revenue cycle and provide that all important progress across their operating environment. While it seems likely the debates will continue, one thing is for sure – RPA is here to stay. Are you ready to embrace it?