May 12, 2020 | InBrief

Health systems and RPA: Planning for rescheduled electives and non-urgent care

Understanding the backlogged demand for healthcare services and finding ways to simplify rescheduling will be essential as the nation’s hospitals and health systems start preparing to reopen for postponed electives and non-urgent care. Preparing for this demand begins with analysis, partnering, and planning—analyzing cancelled services in the context of historical volume to anticipate the most urgent needs, partnering with clinician leaders to both prioritize appointment types, and outline a phased approach to rescheduling, including proactive outreach to patients and planning enhanced staff support. But within these steps lies a clear need for efficiency that supports both quality and cost-effectiveness.

This is where simple technology—namely robotic process automation (RPA)—can help. RPA creates much-needed efficiencies through the automation of basic processes, freeing staff to focus their time and energy on more complex matters related to the anticipated demand for electives and non-urgent care. Without disrupting current workflows or requiring an overhaul of your business or systems architecture as the demand for these services picks up, RPA can help in the following ways:

Simplify scheduling while strengthening data integrity

Patient access centers will need to be equipped and ready to handle patients’ needs for not only rescheduled appointments, but a wide range of other functions as well, including referral management, financial clearance, and financial counseling. Enhancing your focus on data collection and financial clearance processes during this challenging time will be essential due to coverage changes resulting from shifts in employment and financial status for many individuals.

RPA can support the automation and optimization of transferrable, confidential data according to various patient information and appointment criteria such as age, location, diagnosis, and insurance status. It can increase scheduling process efficiency, enhance patient experience and engagement, decrease record errors, and improve clean claim rates. This will help your pre-registration activities prior to patient arrival, thereby limiting time spent in the facility and can support coordination of your financial clearance and financial counseling workflows to ensure smooth handoffs and enable review for sponsorship linkages or the proactive setup of payment plans with your self-pay population.

Augment front-office operations and boost system compatibility

Correspondingly, the automation of various front-office operations run by legacy systems – such as referrals management, insurance inquiries, and medication requests – can be exponentially enhanced through robotic software processes, thereby improving staff, patient, and clinician experience while optimizing existing programs and systems. In this way, RPA allows you to make low-cost, high-yield investments in core functional areas and systems while freeing up resources’ time to work on complex activities that are non-transactional and require high-touch or manual intervention.

In other words, rather than spending an inordinate amount of time and effort coordinating disparate processes and systems as you look to reschedule non-urgent appointments, surgeries, or procedures, automation can let your staff focus on necessary planning, communications, and outreach to support demand. In addition to developing an enhanced staff support plan, for example, you will want to work with your marketing and communications teams to create cross channel materials that can be targeted to specific patient groups or appointment types and consider creating an outbound dialing campaign to notify patients that previously cancelled appointments are ready to be rescheduled and directing patients to any self-service tools that your organization has in place.

The path forward

Creating and communicating a prioritized, well-defined plan for supporting the coming demand for electives and non-urgent care is essential to mitigating negative revenue and cash flow effects, upholding an environment of support for staff and clinicians, and delivering a quality patient experience. But delivering on that plan will be challenging without establishing certain underlying efficiencies. RPA can help you institute key process efficiencies that will set you up for both near- and long-term success in this volatile environment. Contact West Monroe to learn more.

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