The Future of Robotic Process Automation in Healthcare - Cover

The Future of Robotic Process Automation in Healthcare

There are few trends in healthcare technology with more interest than robotic process automation. While emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning are frequently mentioned, the tried-and-true technology of robotic process automation (RPA) is seeing rapid provider adoption.

RPA technology has been around for several years, but its adoption has only been commonplace within the last few of those years. While the initial investment for providers can be costly, an ROI can be realized quickly through reduced labor expense, decreased A/R, and increased cash cycle speed. With so many successful use cases cited today, providers are much more comfortable in investing in RPA.

KLAS has seen a significant increase in provider interest and applicable use cases. Providers are most interested in three primary items. First, in what processes are their provider peers deploying RPA? Second, what is the user experience with many of the vendors in this space? Third, what delivery models are being used?

To address many of these questions, KLAS published spotlight reports on vendors UiPath, Olive, Boston Software, Colburn Hill, and Databound. These reports validate the performance for each of the vendors in the RPA space. This month, we are publishing the Robotic Process Automation 2021 report, which is a consolidated performance report on those vendors.

Robotic Process Automation Today

The most common RPA use cases are found in revenue cycle management (RCM) processes. RCM has traditionally been layered with expensive and error-prone manual processes. RPA automation has significantly reduced the costs associated with claim statusing, balance adjustments, and denial management. These processes are fraught with redundant and time-consuming activities that often create billing errors and lower job satisfaction.

RPA utilization drastically reduces billing error rates to nearly zero. Job satisfaction has also increased as employees have shifted away from traditional tasks and engaged in more complicated and higher-dollar situations that can only be solved by experienced and skilled billing professionals.

Robotic Process Automation Tomorrow

While numerous healthcare providers have adopted RPA technology, there are many who have not. The next several years will see significant growth and investment from providers who are ready to move into the world of automation. In the coming years, providers who are slow to embrace basic automation pieces will find themselves falling behind both operationally and financially. The impact of COVID-19 has further accelerated financial margin pressure and strained cash flow.

More advanced providers are already looking past traditional RCM workflows and into areas of HR, supply chain management, and clinical analytics for further RPA expansion. Providers are very interested in applying these technology solutions to every applicable part of the healthcare business.

The following graph shares the future provider development plans of the vendors included in our report:

future development plans all rpa vendors

Potential Challenges

While success rates are high, providers freely share that the implementation process isn’t always easy. Nor is success guaranteed. A deep understanding of healthcare processes and sound technical expertise is required for success. A lack of knowledge in either one of these areas is most often cited as the cause of challenging or even failed implementations. Picking the right vendor partner based on an accurate assessment of provider resources is a critical success factor. Our KLAS-validated research shows that RPA implementations are typically successful and show an ROI within six months.        

Another challenge is the knowledge gap. Skilled vendors and providers alike can bridge the gap that exists between clinical and technological understanding. Opportunities for workflow automation are only limited by an organization’s ability to understand healthcare processes as well as the technology itself. As further use cases show promise and an ROI, the technology will continue to expand into more complex processes.

The delivery of automation is as varied as providers’ needs. Providers can purchase RPA technology directly and automate critical processes. This is often the most cost-effective method, assuming a skilled internal development and support team is available.

Alternatively, providers may choose to use managed services, wherein the product is both developed and hosted by a third-party vendor. While this method does increase costs, it is often the quickest and easiest way to implement technology without internal development competencies.

The Future

Based on provider sentiment, KLAS expects the strong trend of RPA adoption to continue for years to come. Ever-tightening margins and the demand for cost reduction and increased performance necessitates the need for technology adoption. As tried-and-true technology, RPA will continue to play a large role in healthcare automation. KLAS will continue to watch for proven, emerging technologies and provider-validated solutions.

Photo Credit: Adobe Stock, Golden Sikorta