Digital Workforce combine artificial intelligence, machine learning, and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) – a simple and powerful automation software that enables organizations to create their own digital workers to automate any business process. These “digital workers” are configurable software set up to perform the tasks that the organization assigns and controls.
Based on a 2019 market research report by ResearchAndMarkets.com, the authors predict that the global RPA in the healthcare market will grow at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of above 20% during the forecast period till 2025. The Asia Pacific region is expected to witness the fastest growth rate due to the increasing customer base for large enterprises. As organizations continue to grow and managing huge customers becomes a difficulty, RPA can benefit the healthcare sector to rely on desktop automation for some basic to complex repetitive workflows.
At a recent HIMSS RPA Focus group study with healthcare professionals based in Singapore, it was observed that the adoption of RPA within the group seem to be at its infancy – some just started a few months into RPA projects while most are still evaluating or considering which types of implementation would help their processes and workflow.
Based on the focus group discussion, the usefulness and application of RPA in the healthcare setting can be divided into three broad categories:
(i) improving workforce productivity;
(ii) enhancing the efficient use of existing digital health technologies;
(iii) enhancing patient experience
Challenges and concerns with RPA implementation
Beyond financial costs and ROI, other factors like the total number of hours saved for a particular process and redeploying staff for higher value work should also be considered. A process assessment tool can be used to create a process map that looks at what is easy to implement with high impact.
Although most of the focus group participants know about the benefits of RPA implementation, there are still concerns about whether the technology will work well in the healthcare setting. For example, nurses are concerned if RPA will be able to ensure patient safety – when nurses are busy going about their daily tasks, will RPA be able to keep track of patients’ conditions and to alert the nurses whenever something adverse happens to them?
Pro tips and advice for RPA implementation
There was a common consensus and recognition by representatives across different stakeholders from the focus group that the use of RPA can help improve efficiencies and reduce staff workloads, be it in acute care or community care settings.
A tip provided by a participant in terms of project selection for possible RPA implementation was to identify issues/tasks that are giving staff the most headache on the ground, so the desire to try will be higher. For healthcare organizations that are exploring the use of RPA, a word of advice would be to start small in a specific area or run a pilot before scaling up implementation.