L. Albert Villarin, MD, FACEP
Information is critical to delivering care and dozens of decisions per day are based on the what data is available at that time. Several industries, including travel and automotive, have been years ahead of healthcare in incorporating technology to gain insight and guide decisions. When you check into a hotel, they seem to know you and your preferences, including when you last stayed with them, if you prefer a higher floor and your normal time for a wakeup call. Cars have computers that measure performance, including fuel efficiency and speed, so you know the current state at all times. It is time we bring that same logic to healthcare.
Robotic process automation (RPA) delivers actionable insights to help drive clinical decisions and is especially timely given other industry trends. It is ideal for rule-based, repeatable processes that leverage the organization’s key systems, including electronic health records (EHRs), home monitoring devices and labs. RPA could work with them the same way people would, while automating functions. Each process is 100 percent repeatable 24 hours a day, seven days a week. With RPA, you have a dashboard of what is going on right now and how to make it more efficient.
For clinicians, RPA becomes more important as care delivery further shifts toward population health management and value-based care. Many providers are seeing more patients to earn the same amount of money. Reimbursements are tied to outcomes instead of services, making patient monitoring more important. Managing the health of patient populations requires a proactive approach to continually monitor the status of at-risk patients while ensuring healthy patients remain healthy. Doing this individually is entirely too time consuming to be effective. Technology, including RPA, would be required to do this in a timely and cost-effective manner, to help aggregate and analyze patient data across entire patient populations.
Many EHR vendors claim to have analytics embedded in their systems; however, these solutions tend to have older, less efficient analytics. EHRs typically do not look at data the same as a clinician. Clinically-based RPA is required to draw out relevant information that directly applies to enhancing patient care, improving the efficiency of care and basing that care on evidence. RPA helps guide clinicians to best practices to enhance care delivery.
Several areas of a practice can benefit from RPA, including managing patient populations, observing blood pressure and preventatively monitoring through wearables, including Fitbit. To effectively treat heart failure, physicians need to sort through thousands of resources for information, reading studies, learning best practices and applying them to their patients. By leveraging RPA, data from all studies available can be sifted through automatically and applied to that patient. Billions of pieces of data are aggregated, and physicians are presented with the top sources and best practices from thousands of patients. You can apply the strength of the masses to care for one patient.
Another example lies would be a patient with AFib. This person needs to be on blood thinners and accurately monitored closely to insure their blood is thinned to the correct level. It is tedious to pull data during a long period of time from multiple sources, including home monitoring devices, EHRs and labs, to organize care. RPA can monitor this patient because it knows all of the data it needs to examine, freeing up time for providers to treat other patients. Physicians can take these analytics and automatically contact patients who show concerning signs to schedule an appointment. Value-based care makes this even more important as doctors are now monitoring several patient populations simultaneously, requiring them to be experts in each condition.
RPA can help doctors deliver better care by enhancing clinical decisions and adding intelligence, applying evidence and best practices. This results in a reduction of readmissions, lower cost impact to the healthcare market and improved outcomes for the patient. Investing in RPA delivers a tool that helps practices reduce costs and improve outcomes. Physicians get paid better through lower readmissions.
This is where healthcare is heading. RPA is a perfect example of clinicians and technology working together to improve population health. At a later date, we will explore RPA on the in-patient side and how it can make the biggest impact possible during those few days of admittance.