In this business profile, Stephen Thome, principal, and Vivek Rodriquez, senior manager, at Grant Thornton LLP Health Care Advisory Services practice, discuss the value of using robotic process automation to improve business office efficiency, reduce costs, and mitigate risk. Grant Thornton LLP is a sponsor of the HFMA Large System Controllers Council.
Why is the use of robotic process automation (RPA) important in health care?
Despite the increased use of technology in healthcare organizations’ business offices, there are still manual processes occurring within the back-office environment. Many of these—especially ones that are repetitive—can be automated. Robotic process automation (RPA) is a new and valuable tool that efficiently and reliably completes essential but manual tasks.
Healthcare organizations can leverage this technology to handle a variety of jobs. For example, RPA can be used to generate reports by having the system log into various internal websites, download information, consolidate and de-duplicate items, and then upload streamlined data into a reporting format. This task could take a staff person several hours but RPA could complete it in minutes. Given that RPA is a proven method for cost reduction amid shrinking margins and other evolving dynamics, this technology will undoubtedly be a part of health care’s future, and healthcare organizations are advised to begin looking at RPA opportunities now.
What are the benefits of using RPA?
Overall, RPA allows organizations to more effectively manage the cost and consistency of lower value-added activities, using automation to tackle repetitive work instead of dedicating a staff person to the task. An automated approach can also take the place of offshoring, which can be costly and cumbersome. RPA supports an effective workforce strategy because robots work all day, every day. Using RPA has a positive impact on employee morale as well, because no one has to be consistently assigned to mundane—and often onerous—jobs. In addition, RPA solutions ensure better process control and reliability. When humans engage in cyclic, manual tasks, they run the risk of making mistakes. Robots, however, can handle any volume of work with no errors.
What are some of the challenges associated with RPA?
Hospitals, health systems, and physician practices tend to be reluctant to welcome new technologies without undeniable proof that they work. Some organizations are on the forefront of adoption that plan to use new technology widely and broadly, while others remain on the sidelines, wondering if it is truly necessary. In order to adopt new technology effectively, an organization must embrace a mindset of change and coordinate resources across different functional areas, including finance, IT, supply chain, and so on.
The good news is that RPA is rather simple to operate after it’s up and running. Once an organization overcomes the mindset challenges, the actual adoption of the technology can happen quite rapidly. The key to realizing success is to adopt new technology on a small scale first to gain traction. As the use of RPA becomes more mature, organizations can begin to hunt for automation opportunities that align with strategic objectives and deploy RPA across the enterprise.
How can organizations lay the groundwork for RPA adoption?
First and foremost, organizations should educate themselves about RPA and its potential. This may involve looking online, talking with colleagues, or attending seminars. Sitting through a couple demos is also helpful. RPA is a hot topic, and organizations should gain basic knowledge now to understand a technology that will very likely be a part of their future.
Another crucial step is identifying an internal champion who will take ownership of the work. Not only should this individual see the value in using the technology, he or she should have the ability to influence his or her colleagues.
As an organization starts scaling the technology, leaders are advised to make sure the right governance structure is in place. When two to three processes are automated with RPA, internal controls (and internal audit) need to be adapted to the technology. Changing business conditions, new employees, mergers and acquisitions, and advancing software applications all have the potential to impact automation goals and requirements. Healthcare organizations should think about these things ahead of time and develop processes to guide decision making as dynamics evolve. Good governance up front will pay dividends down the line.
If different departments within an organization are pursuing RPA, it’s also important to have a standardized approach so that everyone follows the same best practices and has the same internal controls in place. An organization also should establish good communication between departments to make sure everyone is on the same page and following processes.
How can Grant Thornton assist organizations with these efforts? What sets your company apart?
Grant Thornton Health Care Advisory Services has deep experience in leveraging RPA to improve business performance. We manage everything from simple projects to complex organizationwide efforts. One thing that sets us apart is that we meet clients where they are on the RPA journey. We respect that some organizations want to start small and grow from there, while others want to implement the technology more aggressively. We can help with either effort and everything in between, understanding the need to establish a strong business case and build internal support.
We are also focused on teaching clients “to fish,” so that when our engagement with the organization is complete, it can maintain a self-sustaining program—as opposed to continually calling us for maintenance and support. As mentioned before, RPA is not overly complex, and once an organization has established a program, it is fairly straightforward for a business unit to handle any changes, reconfigurations, and updates. Our goal is to guide organizations in implementing best practices and empower them to manage a robust program over the long term.
How can organizations learn more about Grant Thornton’s RPA services?
For more information, go to https://www.grantthornton.com/services/advisory/featured-industries/health-care-advisory-services.aspx
About Grant Thornton
Our clients take advantage of our collective knowledge, gained from long experience in and with healthcare organizations. Grant Thornton LLP Health Care professionals across the country personally deliver solutions and operational improvements to meet patient care, compliance, and business needs.