The Next Driving Force of Digital Transformation in Automation and Healthcare
Every once in a while, a “forcing function” emerges that alters a company’s or industry’s course. The pandemic may be the most powerful force in recent history, and it has altered healthcare by firmly establishing telehealth as a viable option. A lot has been published about how pre-pandemic video visits increased by a factor from 30x to 40X. There are still some concerns about reimbursement policies, and about the misuse of virtual visits, which may exacerbate rather than reduce the load on physicians and drive up expenses. The forcing function’s initial impacts are wearing off, and Telehealth visits have plateaued.
According to a recent report by the American College of Healthcare Executives, the largest concern facing today’s healthcare CEOs is a staffing shortfall. The shortage of vital front-line workers, according to the report, is critical to ensuring that hospitals have workforces that can meet the demands for safe, high-quality care in the present time and in the coming years ahead.
Another analysis, released in late 2021 by consulting firm Mercer, contains some sobering statistics on how the labor shortage will affect workers at all levels. Nurses, mental health workers, and home health workers will all face severe shortages.
The findings emphasize the importance of healthcare businesses investing in efforts to expand the pipeline of workers, enhance retention by training and supporting employees, and invest in alternative care models. One approach could be to use technology, notably automation, to alleviate the labor shortage.
Automation is at the heart of all technologies. However, in recent years, technology such as robotic process automation had emerged that can successfully replace humans by simulating monotonous operations. In administrative services like claim processing and revenue cycle operations, RPA has successfully decreased human workload.
Several RPA technology businesses have been successful in deploying “digital workers” that can execute repetitive activities at a fraction of the cost of human labor. Employers and employees were both disturbed five years ago by such a value proposition. Nonetheless, with the reality of worker shortage, there is renewed interest in using RPA to ease the shortfall and potentially redeploy staff from routine duties to value-added tasks.
While RPA has proven to be successful in a restricted set of administrative tasks, additional technologies are emerging as feasible solutions for clinical and operational sectors that can help address the workforce shortage and reduce clinician workload.
The bold acquisition of Nuance by Microsoft and Amazon’s aggressive expenditures in Alexa skills for home health and senior care have pushed voice recognition to the forefront, especially in the last year. Conversational interfaces, such as chatbots, have also risen to prominence as a result of the pandemic’s forcing function, which necessitated a surge in screening for huge numbers of people with COVID symptoms. COVID-19 screening is, without a doubt, the most well-known use case for chatbots.
By building on the success of early use cases, RPA, voice, and chatbot technologies are moving upstream into core healthcare operations. Simultaneously, new technologies are gaining traction as potential alternatives to human intervention. While AI has yet to have a significant impact on clinical operations, it is increasingly being applied to basic operations such as patient interaction and even marketing.
The acute lack of labor is a forcing function like no other today in advancing the adoption of automation technology, allowing health institutions to continue to innovate on their care delivery models, increase digital health, and improve organizational efficiency.