Despite the fact that IT process automation has completely revolutionized industries from manufacturing to banking, health care has been notably slow to embrace technological change. However, as costs rise, demand increases, and staffing shortages in health organizations persist nationwide, the health care industry is slowly coming around to the significant benefits that process automation can provide.
Following is a look at seven diverse health care processes in which automation could boost efficiency, streamline workflows, and save time and money:
Security and compliance
Personal health information and medical records are extremely sensitive, and providing proper protection for this data is a top priority for health care organizations of all sizes. Security standards are rigidly enforced by regulatory measures such as HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) and HITECH (the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act). However, ensuring compliance at all levels of an organization can be burdensome if carried out manually, and the possibility of human error could mean that confidential data ends up in the wrong hands. Enter IT process automation solutions, which organizations can use to ensure that access to certain tasks and workflows is only available to authorized individuals. Furthermore, such solutions often have auditing capabilities that greatly facilitate compliance reporting.
Systems management and optimization
Large health care facilities such as hospitals or major ambulatory surgery centers require a huge amount of computing power, but it can be difficult to predict when and for how long the extra power may be needed. IT process automation allows for the optimized use of computing resources by dynamically scaling up or down, as needed. Similar to a smart thermostat system, which can adjust temperature levels depending on your activities, smart automation solutions in health care organizations can automatically fire up more machines to provide an additional boost of computing power for particular jobs and can spin down under- or unused machines during idle time to help conserve resources.
Big data and analytics
With electronic medical records becoming the standard across the American health care system, there are significant opportunities available to gain critical insight into a population’s health and improve patient care by utilizing the data that the records contain. However, these opportunities cannot be fully realized without automation. The complex workflows needed to mine and process both structured and unstructured data can only be reliably managed through automated systems. Fortunately, many workload automation solutions are available that can help health care organizations to centralize their workflows, as well as enhance oversight and monitoring of their dependencies and constraints around big data.
Staff and patient onboarding and offboarding
Adding new patients and staff into billing or human resources systems is not a complex activity, but it is a laborious one that can often be a significant drain on the staff’s time. Processes like these are ideal for automation. By creating an automated process that kicks in as soon as a new sale (or new hire) is made, health care organizations can reduce patient wait time and streamline the onboarding process for new employees, while at the same time freeing up valuable staff time for better use elsewhere. Similar processes can also be implemented when patients or employees leave the system.
Help desk and support procedures
An IT malfunction at the wrong moment can be a critical problem when it comes to patient care. In such cases, time is of the essence, and the manual handoffs required by legacy systems can make the time to resolution unacceptably long. However, automation software has built-in alerting capabilities that can create help desk tickets immediately after an object failure, thus ensuring that problems are resolved as promptly as possible.
The availability of beds and system capacity are the major determining factors of patient flow in large facilities such as hospitals. However, process issues can often contribute to delays. Inappropriate ward placement, delayed inpatient discharge, a lack of consensus on inpatient admission, and delayed diagnosis decisions can lead to frustratingly long wait times for patients and a corresponding reduction in patient satisfaction. However, many of these patient flow processes can be automated—such as managing cross-department communication so that admissions will know as soon as a bed becomes available—thus leading to a streamlined and more efficient care experience for patients and providers alike.
With patient safety contingent on treatment being administered correctly and at the appropriate time, it’s hardly surprising that medication errors are a major concern for health care providers, particularly in high-pressure situations or cases that involve multiple medications with different dosages and administration procedures. Automated workflow technology can ease this burden considerably by providing automatic notifications of what type and dosage of medication needs to be administered and when. This not only helps to reduce medication errors and boost operational efficiency, but it can also reduce financial losses that may be caused by incorrect dosing or other dispensing issues.