Take Two Robots and Call Me in the Morning: How Automation Can Transform Healthcare Delivery
Can you imagine a visit to the doctor’s office without hearing the constant click of a computer keyboard? From the moment you enter, the people in the office are accessing different systems and updating information. It can seem as if everyone from the receptionist to the doctor spends more time looking at the screen than looking at you.
And if that situation is frustrating for you as a patient, think about how it feels for the people working in the office. Chances are they didn’t go into the medical field to spend more time on a computer. According to one estimate, primary care physicians spend an average of 18 minutes with a patient. Another study found that physicians spend an average of more than 16 minutes per patient encounter with electronic health records (EHRs). That doesn’t mean that doctors are ignoring patients. Reviewing and updating records is critical to good care.
Even so, it’s probably safe to assume that doctors and supporting staff would rather devote more time to patients, and less to navigating and updating online records. So, how can we flip the script on the situation? How can everyone in the doctor’s office get back some of that time to focus on what matters most: a.k.a., patient care?
One way is to give everyone on staff a digital assistant (also referred to as a robot assistant). A digital assistant can automate day-to-day tasks that involve accessing, entering, and updating online information. The digital assistant can do a lot of the clicking and keying for them. And they can do it for any job where people spend a lot of their day on repetitive digital tasks that take a lot of manual effort and a lot of clicks—not just the medical field.
A day in the life of the medical receptionist
To get a feel for the impact a digital assistant can have, let’s look at the role of the medical receptionist. Here’s just a partial list of what they do every day:
They prepare charts ensuring that all the relevant clinical data (from multiple sources, including other physicians) is available.
They make sure all paperwork is completed, signed, and up-to-date.
They verify insurance coverage and collect any due amounts.
They schedule follow-up appointments, labs, and other testing.
They initiate prior authorizations and physician referrals.
Each task can include logging into different systems, searching for patient names, accessing the right records, updating records, and rekeying information from one system into another. A lot of that activity is also routine and repetitive. It’s perfectly suited to a digital assistant.
Reclaiming time for patient engagement
Some of the ways a digital assistant can make the medical receptionist’s day easier include:
Reducing clicks – A single task can involve dozens of selections in multiple systems. A digital assistant can complete routine sequences of clicks and prompt the assistant for any needed information.
Streamlining navigation – The digital assistant can toggle between internal and external applications to complete a task.
Creating a ‘single pane of glass’ – The digital assistant can collect all the relevant information from different sources and present it to the receptionist on one active screen. The receptionist gets the ‘big picture’ without switching between multiple systems.
Managing data – Information from one system (for example, an insurance portal) often needs to be entered into another (such as a lab system). A digital assistant can extract the right information and reenter it where it’s needed.
Above is an example of the types of work distribution changes we've seen for medical receptionists using digital assistants via UiPath.
Over a week, the time the receptionist saves starts to add up. By relying on a digital assistant to do the routine and repetitive work, receptionists can reduce their administrative workload significantly. That means there’s more time for patient engagement and other tasks that make better use of their talent and expertise. And the positive effects start to snowball. Less time on tedious administrative work means less burnout and turnover. Fewer staffing shortages lead to lower costs. Meanwhile, the quality of care and the patient experience both improve.
Making automation easy for the end user
The technology that doctors and their supporting teams use is supposed to make their jobs easier—not create more work. But each of those systems was designed for a specific task or purpose. The job of getting them to work together adds to the administrative workload. A digital assistant can take over that task and bridge the functional silos that interrupt a smooth business process.
The robot doesn’t create more work. It automates a lot of the work that no one wants to do, so staff members can do what they were meant to do. And it’s easy to use. Learning to work with a digital assistant isn’t a job unto itself. It’s designed for simplicity.
Ready to learn more about how automation is the right prescription for better healthcare delivery?
If you have 10 more minutes, check out the video below.
If you have 30 minutes, watch one of the on-demand webinars in our "Innovation in Healthcare" webinar series.