Today’s healthcare facilities are facing critical staffing problems. Over 19% of U.S. hospitals are experiencing staffing shortages, according to government data posted earlier this year. Caused primarily by the COVID-19 pandemic, nurses and doctors have left hospitals and healthcare clinics because of the dangerous, high-stress conditions. More recently, the U.S. saw rulings and changes that could affect an individual’s access to healthcare – driving more questions and concerns from patients about how they might be impacted.
With healthcare administrations already overwhelmed, organizations need to leverage intelligent technologies to support patient care while also allowing skilled professionals to dedicate more of their time and energy to cases that demand the full use of their expertise.
Looking for a solution to this ongoing issue, forward-looking leaders in the healthcare space have turned to AI-powered chatbots to alleviate some of the administrative work that burdens today’s healthcare workers. Chatbots function in many areas, including:
– Directing patients to specific healthcare information they are looking for
– Providing an easy gateway to find appropriate information about insurance services/claims
– Supporting the updating of patient account information
Utilizing conversational artificial intelligence (AI) built within enterprise automation software and with the use of robotic process automation (RPA), these chatbots can be leveraged by healthcare technology systems to create better patient experiences while simultaneously alleviating staff workloads. In Ireland, RPA-powered software robots helped the country’s Health Service Executive (HSE) save 22 thousand hours of work between September and December of 2020 as the country battled the COVID-19 pandemic.
RPA is most easily described as digital virtual workers that emulate and integrate the actions of a human interacting within digital systems to execute a business process. Put simply, the software operates a computer, mouse, and keyboard like a human – but virtually. RPA can enter data into databases, update records, and save files. It is like having a virtual worker – and employees themselves can create robots for specific tasks they find repetitive and time-consuming, such as pulling or updating patient records. The nurses and administrators who find themselves bogged down with repetitive admin work can do more valuable things with the help of RPA, such as interacting with patients and staff. For HSE, RPA was able to process as many COVID cases in one hour as employees previously did in five days while also gaining more efficient and timely data. Partnered with conversational AI, RPA can become a very powerful tool in the healthcare space.
Conversational AI is a type of artificial intelligence that enables consumers to interact with computer applications the way they would with other humans. Conversational AI has primarily taken the form of advanced chatbots, or AI chatbots. Conversational AI allows robots to talk with chatbots using seamless bidirectional communication. With conversational AI, robots and humans are encouraged to interact using natural language to process service requests. This also means that RPA processes can be triggered directly from a chat, which in turn increases operational efficiency.
Most are familiar with consumer-oriented chatbots, such as those in ecommerce that assist shoppers with finding the right product or aid account holders in updating information. Similarly, chatbots in healthcare can help people navigate healthcare services. They also help with administrative functions like booking appointments, issuing appointment reminders, finding the correct medical forms, filing claims, paying medical bills, and assisting with refilling prescriptions. Importantly, chatbots also provide real-time responses, increasing the likelihood that patients will engage with healthcare services and the number of people who can access services at any one time. With the help of conversational AI, chatbots can capture the context of patients seeking assistance and can provide an intelligent response.
Max Healthcare, one of the largest hospital networks in North India, used this type of patient-focused automation to alleviate the claims and billing process. With the help of RPA-powered AI chatbots, Max Healthcare was able to fully automate the manual claims process. What typically was a time-consuming process for administrators and patients became simplified and automatic. With the deployment of these robots, Max Healthcare was able to cut turnaround time by 50% and save up to 75% of the time taken to process health scheme data. It has also improved security and compliance while boosting employee experience. By automating a burdensome, frustrating, and time-consuming process for patients, Max Healthcare created faster and more direct results. Patients were left with a positive experience, more often satisfied with the level of care received, and administrators were given time back into their day to focus on other issues at hand.
The virtual care that was adopted during the start of the pandemic is unlikely to go away any time soon. According to a study by Accenture, at least 60% of patients who used virtual care tools said that based on their experience during the pandemic, they want to use technology more for communicating with healthcare providers and managing their conditions in the future. Chatbots are available 24/7 whereas, often, hospital staff cannot be. With RPA, healthcare-focused conversational AI chatbots are personally dedicated to assisting patients throughout their care process at any time. Chatbots can be an instrumental addition to a patient’s healthcare team, reminding patients about their medications, scheduling follow-up appointments, updating any patient account information to reflect their most recent visit, and keeping their data accessible in one central location. RPA technology then seamlessly ensures this information gets into the right hands of doctors and administrators, keeping them up to date and informed on patient needs and activity.
Healthcare organizations – no matter their specialty, size, or geographic location – should explore how chatbots can help them alleviate traditionally burdensome tasks. Because so many responsibilities can be automated, the focus can still be centered around delivering top-notch patient care around the clock.
About Jason Warrelmann
Jason Warrelmann is the Global Director of Healthcare and Life Sciences at UiPath. Warrelmann has over 10 years of organic experience in delivering a combination of process and digital innovation horizontally across healthcare.