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Robotic Process Automation Reduces Healthcare Costs

Healthcare services in the United States are notoriously expensive when they are compared to other developed nations. Some of the high cost is due to inefficiency in the delivery of routine procedures. Like other industries, America's healthcare sector is exploring the application of new technology.

Half of U.S. healthcare providers will invest in robotic process automation (RPA) in the next three years -- that's up from 5 percent this year according to the latest market study by Gartner. The need to optimize costs and scarce healthcare resources during the pandemic is advancing RPA adoption.

Robotic Process Automation Market Development

Healthcare providers are caught in a perfect storm of shrinking payments, improving outcomes, enhancing the patient experience and bolstering innovation credentials. However, many Americans are very sick. And, treating and managing chronic conditions and mental health consumes nearly 90 percent of the $3.3 trillion in U.S. healthcare spending.

"Cost optimization is a consistently recurring theme among healthcare providers," said Dr. Anurag Gupta, vice president at Gartner. "The money that RPA saves by not having to spend as much on an unreformed process translates into cash that is available for front-end clinical functions, which is especially important while healthcare organizations combat the COVID-19 crisis."

Even prior to the virus outbreak, 41 percent of healthcare provider CIOs experienced a funding shortfall, according to the 2020 Gartner CIO Survey. The early promise of RPA is to help reduce these operating cost pressures that sit on the top of healthcare provider CIOs’ list of challenges.

RPA is a combination of user interface recognition technologies and workflow execution that mimics the mouse-clicks and keystrokes of a human to drive applications and execute system-based work.

Healthcare providers are utilizing RPA for non-vertical-specific tasks, such as staffing an IT help desk as well as critical vertical-specific tasks, such as physician credentialing or verifying insurance eligibility.

By automating simpler routine tasks, RPA can optimize costs and outputs, plus enable healthcare resources to focus on higher-value tasks. A Gartner survey uncovered that nearly a quarter of finance executives anticipated more spending on RPA to drive cost optimization.

RPA is but one emerging artificial intelligence (AI) technology that is helping healthcare delivery organizations. By 2023, 20 percent of all patient interactions will involve some form of AI enablement within clinical or nonclinical processes -- that's up from less than 4 percent today.

According to the Gartner assessment, the need to unlock the hidden insights in-patient data and enable better decision making is also driving the demand for AI cloud services, which is why more than one-third of all healthcare workloads will be in the cloud by 2023.

Outlook for RPA and AI Applications in Healthcare

Using cloud-based AI, healthcare providers can predict upcoming patient needs and identify optimum interventions, before the patient’s condition starts deteriorating. Cloud-based as-a-service solutions have become the preferred strategy for CIOs who need to innovate while controlling costs by converting capital expenditure (capex) outlays to operating expenditures (opex).

"This strategy offers healthcare providers better leverage to spend on higher-value objectives, such as evidence-based decision-making capabilities that solve business problems and challenges like the coronavirus pandemic," said Dr. Gupta.

Clearly, there are many scenarios where applied automation can enhance the productivity of healthcare workers and thereby enable meaningful cost reductions. That said, like any other digital transformation project, the greatest obstacle to RPA and AI adoption will be related to IT staff skills or organizational culture.

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