The Age of Bots for Healthcare — Robotic Process Automation (RPA)
Bot is a software robot (“Robotic”) that is given instructions (“Process”) to perform (“Automation”). Therefore, RPA is written rules/instructions you tell a software to do in an automated manner.
In this day and age, you have probably recently encountered software robots as chatbots. These chatbots may have scheduled an appointment for you or even performed a task such as booking a hotel room. Beyond chatting, you might have tried to buy tickets to a concert/game or purchase a certain clothing item (such as the notorious streetwear brand Supreme) only to get beat out by someone who deployed a bot. Leveraging bots allows you to tell the application software to complete a transaction in <1 second. My personal online transaction time is about 15–20 seconds, so I often do not get the hyped item I intended to buy. Despite the annoyances many encounter with bots, they play a significant role in automating repetitive mundane tasks (copy-pasting text into structured fields on a template). Let’s explore how this applies to healthcare…
Right now, there is a lot of interest in the “Digital Front Door” for patient care. How can I prep a patient before they see a physician? Scheduling quickly comes to mind, but you can also have the RPA engine copy/paste certain health information to tee up your data at the moment you will see a physician. Imagine having your latest labs, outside records, images, and medications ready to go so that your encounter is meaningful and full of decisions in your health journey! This has yet to be realized in our current health systems. Often, we scramble to gather information at the right moment, looking through many tabs and unstructured data. Leveraging RPA could be a link to realize functional interoperability without true interoperability. You also remove having humans pull open charts and re-chart in new documentation packages. All of these mundane tasks can be completed in split seconds in the background. As electronic record keeping in healthcare continues to be burdensome, deploying Bots with RPA technology can really get the right information to the right person at the right moment in a workflow. That is the holy grail with regards to healthcare applications.
RPA will be a part of the wider advanced technology ecosystem that brings back the human touch. Just as “google it” hasn’t replaced expert consultation, bots can only go so far before human intervention is needed to weigh the risks/benefits of decision-making. Medicine is an art and what to do with diagnosis is complex depending on very personal circumstances. Mundane task elimination can be realized through deployed RPA. Therefore, RPA integration will be part of the new world order in healthcare that brings back the human touch!