Before the pandemic, people looked for a human element in all the interactions. Most of us still preferred to visit bank branches, go shopping in physical markets and stores, see doctors for a quick consultation, and more. Even having nearly endless online capabilities, too often, we chose brick-and-mortar over online, but why? The answer is all too simple, as we were mostly looking for communication with consultants, physicians, or other individuals. However, the COVID-19 outbreak has changed that dramatically.

Every industry in every part of the world is reeling from the pandemic. Needless to say, healthcare organizations are subjected to maximum pressure due to the overwhelming number of patients, the shortage of healthcare workers, general risks, and public expectations. Such unprecedented conditions translate into severe problems in both back- and front-office operations, including employee burnout, long response time, supply chain disruptions, documentation backlog, and others. This worldwide crisis has forced business executives to innovate like never before.

RPA in Healthcare: How Hospitals Leverage Automation to Navigate Through the COVID-19 Pandemic

For many healthcare institutions, the implementation of automation solutions has played a pivotal role in restraining and reducing the virus spread and sustaining a safe recovery. Optimization of costs, faster customer services, and better personnel support are common benefits that artificial intelligence and robotics in healthcare have to offer, but is that all?

At TEAM International, we’re proud to work together with healthcare organizations and help them find new ways to implement automated solutions and better respond to current demanding circumstances. To offer maximum value to our clients, we continuously analyze the market and new RPA use cases in healthcare. Process automation solutions have proved successful in various areas during the pandemic, and below we will discuss them in more detail.

Streamlining COVID-19 testing and reporting

With the coronavirus outbreak, testing sites have experienced a huge demand, and it’s hardly surprising that they hadn’t been ready for that. Long waiting lines have become normal, as the COVID-19 testing protocol is rather labor-intensive, and it’s mandated for each test. 

For instance, every patient must be looked up in the system and registered in the Electronic Medical Record (EMR). Test kits must be adequately labeled for further collection and reporting, while administrative workers must be adhering to social distancing rules. Finally, test results must be logged in various global and regional systems. All this resulted in 6-hour waiting lines and hospital backlogs amid the pandemic.

To deal with the problem, Cleveland Clinic built and quickly deployed a healthcare RPA solution. The robot is designed to look up patient data and verify if they are already registered in the system. Additionally, it tracks test results and sends them to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). When it comes to human employees, the process takes up to three minutes per patient. Meanwhile, RPA solutions perform such tasks in less than sixteen seconds. 

Dublin’s Mater Misericordiae University Hospital faced a similar issue with cumbersome COVID-19 test result reporting to the Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) department. It took nurses around three hours daily to manually enter the results into the system. After the implementation of RPA process technologies, all this paperwork is executed by robots, and they follow the same workflow as nurses. Meanwhile, caregivers can spend more time with their patients.

Addressing healthcare personnel shortage amid the crisis

The coronavirus outbreak has resulted in a steep increase in the number of indoor patients, and they all require constant care. The shortage of human resources, personal protective gear, ventilators, and other equipment forced governments to act fast. 

There have been national calls in the United States and the United Kingdom asking all those with the health service experience to volunteer and assist hospitals during the pandemic. What’s essential, over 24000 individuals have responded. However, prior to joining the front line, all volunteers should have gone through background checks, including the verification of credentials and criminal record checks. Typically, HR departments have performed such tasks manually, but they are rather time-consuming and consequently evolved into a significant bottleneck. 

In the context of the emergency, integration into the recruitment process is one of the most effective use cases of RPA in healthcare. During the COVID-19 crisis, robots allowed government agencies to reduce manual data entry by 35 percent and process volunteers’ information in four hours, instead of five days. Automated business solutions perform background checks, enter data into HR systems, and even assign volunteers to certain job areas, based on the workload. 

Oxygen supply and flow management have never been more vital as during the pandemic. However, it’s predominantly a manual process that requires employees’ time and full attention. Northampton General Hospital has analyzed the situation and spotted a new opportunity for robotic process automation (RPA) in healthcare. The implemented software bots monitor oxygen levels twenty-four-seven, collecting data, and measuring flow rates without human intervention. Such an approach not only guarantees a more coherent use of resources but also eliminates a human factor and minimizes the risk of errors during data reporting.

Optimizing supply chains to manage the influx of medical supplies

Hospital procurement departments globally had to deal with large medical supply volumes generated by COVID-related care. Often these volumes exceeded their regular supply needs ten- or twentyfold, resulting in purchase delays and backlogs amid the crisis. Moreover, we shouldn’t ignore the emotional strain, as we all realize the urgent need for medical orders to reach caregivers on the front line instantly.  

One of the major hospitals in Canada decided to address the challenge with the help of automation technology. Robotics in healthcare supply chain empowered the hospital to ease the strain on their procurement managers and diminish purchase backlogs. Additionally, bots assist with accurate and quick inventory, as well as timely delivery of critical medical supplies to correct storerooms. 

As we can see, the pandemic has opened up new opportunities for healthcare RPA use cases and pushed hospitals to innovation. Software bots are also applied during the analysis of global COVID-19 data to ensure accuracy and faster results. A pharma company — Takeda — leverages automation solutions to collect patients’ information necessary for a clinical trial related to COVID-19 treatment. AI and robotics in healthcare are often used for instant communication with concerned customers to relieve the pressure on contact centers. Finally, we cannot but mention the application of RPA in healthcare revenue cycle management to resume claim processing and preclude payment backlogs.

Healthcare Robotic Process Automation in the Post-COVID-19 Times: What Does the Future Hold?

Healthcare systems globally are overstretched, and the unprecedented severities associated with the public-health crisis have again confirmed that. Today only five percent of institutions in the healthcare sector utilize the RPA technology. However, the pandemic ramps up pressure on CIOs and CTOs to bring down operational costs, streamline work processes, and make the best use of existing resources. Consequently, 50 percent of US healthcare providers plan to invest heavily in automated healthcare solutions in the next three years. Additionally, around 20 percent of all patient interactions will include some form of AI enablement by 2023, as opposed to less than four percent now.

The coronavirus outbreak demonstrates how quickly the way we work and live can change. Currently, recovering from the crisis may be seen as both a challenge and an opportunity to speed up automation in healthcare that’s critical to global economic growth. Those healthcare leaders who will be able to elaborate a comprehensive tech strategy and implement it, will not only recover faster but also emerge stronger and more resilient to potential disruptions in the future. 

TEAM International is among the top RPA companies globally, and we believe that automated solutions have the necessary potential to save hospitals hundreds of staff hours and related costs every month. Get a free consultation from our RPA experts and learn how you can leverage technologies to support today’s real heroes — healthcare workers who treat patients during this pandemic.