Automation remains a hotly debated concept, with proponents claiming it as the future while detractors fear it will replace human jobs. However, there is a middle ground where some believe automation can be a great equalizer. Regardless of the arguments, one thing is evident: harnessing the potential of healthtech automation systems requires understanding its advantages, which holds true for any industry, including healthcare.
The global healthcare automation market is witnessing significant growth and is projected to reach a staggering value of $91.6 billion by 2030, a substantial increase from its current worth of approximately $38 billion, according to Precedence Research. McKinsey further predicts that around 33% of all healthcare professionals' tasks will be automated to minimize costs. In fact, nearly 90% of large healthcare organizations have already incorporated some level of automation into their operations.
With precise automation deeply entrenched in healthcare, this trend is poised to continue and drive significant positive changes in the industry. To understand the potential shifts it may bring, it is crucial to delve into healthcare automation systems and explore the eight key benefits they offer to the healthcare sector.
What is Healthcare Automation System?
Healthcare automation refers to the integration of various technologies, such as software, wearable devices, and robotics, to enhance the efficiency of different processes within a healthcare organization. To embrace this phenomenon, it is essential to engage a vendor proficient in healthcare software development. Presently, numerous organizations and companies have already embraced healthcare automation, leading to a booming market (refer to Fig.1).
Figure 1: Healthcare automation market size in USD billion
Furthermore, automation plays a crucial role in improving healthcare delivery and streamlining day-to-day tasks for medical professionals. For instance, the outbreak of COVID-19 accelerated the adoption of mHealth for automating remote care provision. Moreover, healthcare automation has become an integral component of overall healthcare management.
Automation in Healthcare Management
Automation plays a crucial role in healthcare management, significantly impacting the speed and availability of care delivery. Medical professionals can now make timely decisions and provide results even in remote areas, thanks to automation. Organizations can adopt HIPAA-compliant software, which enhances efficiency and reduces the need for manual, repetitive tasks to almost zero.
Data processing is another critical aspect of healthcare management, and here, healthcare automation comes into play to improve how data is stored, assimilated, and analyzed. By automating data-related tasks, medical professionals can save valuable time and focus more on patient health, making it a fundamental element of efficient healthcare management. However, it is essential to remember that successful automation relies on employing the right technology.
Healthcare Automation Technologies
While numerous technologies can enhance automation across various industries, only some are well-suited for healthcare. Building healthcare software is inherently complex, requiring special attention to data security and ensuring the services provided are beneficial and safe.
Considering these factors, the following technologies can significantly improve patient experience services in the context of healthcare automation:
Robotic Process Automation (RPA)
RPA is at the forefront of technology driving automation in different industries. It involves pre-programmed bots automating various activities within the healthcare value chain. RPA applications in healthcare are steadily increasing (see Fig.2).
Figure 2. Robotic process automation in the healthcare market size in USD billion
RPA proves beneficial in tasks such as scanning paper documents, extracting data, transferring PHI to Electronic Health Records (EHRs), and converting images into text. By implementing RPA in healthcare automation, it eases the burden on medical staff, enabling them to focus on critical tasks and improve care delivery. For example, they can assist practitioners in using HIPAA-compliant telehealth apps, extending care to patients in remote areas.
Business Process Management (BPM)
BPM, also known as business workflow automation, streamlines various business processes to enhance the reliability and responsiveness of essential procedures. In healthcare automation, BPM can improve engagement and relationships within healthcare organizations. It serves as a management tool to identify processes that fail to achieve desired outcomes, thus helping patients, payers, and providers when utilized effectively.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
It's safe to say that AI is ubiquitous, serving as a trailblazer in automation. In healthtech, AI technologies play a significant role in enhancing the efficiency of administrative tasks and data management. Within healthcare, AI excels at categorizing reports, managing clinical paperwork, and optimizing Revenue Cycle Management (CRM). Among the various technologies driving healthcare automation, AI stands out as a clear leader in market growth (see Fig.3).
Figure 3. Artificial intelligence in the healthcare market size in USD billion
AI's strength lies in handling vast amounts of data and emulating human reasoning to find optimal and efficient solutions to complex challenges. Its versatility makes it applicable to numerous fields, bringing automation to various aspects of healthtech automation systems, including telehealth. Consequently, smart automation in telehealth is on the rise, benefiting from the capabilities of AI.
With the introduction of AI, various AI-based iterations have emerged, and administrative applications are one such category. These programs are utilized by medical professionals to enhance efficiency and reduce administrative errors. Streamlining administrative tasks directly contributes to cutting healthcare costs, and estimates suggest it could lead to up to a 30% reduction in spending. Therefore, administrative applications leverage the power of AI and RPA to target administrative inefficiencies effectively.
Rule-Based Expert Systems
When discussing healthcare workflow analysis and implementation, rule-based expert systems play a crucial role. These systems rely on "if-then" rules within self-learning algorithms to facilitate decision-making. In healthcare, technology automates the process of arriving at evidence-based conclusions for diagnosing and treating various conditions. Developers formulate specific codes and rules that are applied to a particular framework and requirements, resulting in healthcare software capable of proposing and diagnosing diseases based on the input.
Machine Learning (ML)
ML is a subset of AI, distinguished by its focus on mimicking how humans learn. While AI emulates human reasoning, ML is dedicated to replicating the learning process. In healthcare automation, ML plays a pivotal role in making data-driven decisions with exceptional precision. ML-based tools can predict the most effective treatment options.
To utilize ML in healthcare automation, you input patient health information (PHI) and treatment frameworks into the system, which then generates a ready-to-use solution. The technology's self-learning capabilities have a wide range of applications and can continuously evolve to become more accurate over time. However, for optimal performance, providing sufficient training data is essential.
Natural Language Processing (NLP)
NLP is a technology that empowers machines to understand and process human language, whether in text or speech form. It combines computational linguistics with ML, making it widely used in customer service as conversational AI and chatbots. NLP enables computers to comprehend human language, translate it into machine-readable input, and provide output that humans can understand.
Furthermore, NLP goes beyond recognizing textual and speech-generated data; it also grasps aspects like intent, context, and sentiment. In healthcare, NLP finds applications in speech recognition, text analysis, and translation, facilitating the transition to a paperless healthcare system.
These technologies, centered around AI and RPA, with others as their iterations, enable automation in healthcare. Each technology can be suitably applied to automate various aspects of healthcare provision, from streamlining administrative tasks to aiding in patient diagnosis. To fully comprehend the extensive potential of automation in healthcare, exploring the key benefits it brings to healthtech is essential.
8 Key Advantages of Healthcare Automation Systems
Having discussed healthcare automation in-depth, it's crucial to explore its distinct benefits. Without further delay, let's delve into some critical advantages of implementing automation in the healthcare industry:
1. Cost reduction
Cost reduction is a perpetual goal for businesses across all industries, including healthcare. Healthcare services account for a significant portion of national budgets, as seen in the case of the United States (Fig.4).
Figure 4. Projections of national health expenditures and their share of the Gross Domestic Product
Automation has emerged as a promising solution to address the high costs in healthcare. By enhancing productivity, minimizing errors, and automating manual tasks, healthcare automation significantly reduces the need for overtime work. This allows medical professionals to utilize their time more efficiently. Furthermore, predictive analytics, a key automation technology, improves the accuracy of diagnoses, leading to cost savings in the diagnostic process.
Consider readmissions as an example of how automation can lower healthcare costs. On average, readmitted patients cost hospitals approximately $550 million. However, with the implementation of AI and RPA, healthcare facilities can analyze scheduling, booking, and rescheduling processes more efficiently, resulting in reduced readmissions and significant cost savings.
2. Easier Scheduling
As demonstrated in the previous example, better scheduling leads to reduced readmission rates. However, automation offers many more advantages beyond this. Most hospitals still rely on manual scheduling processes that are labor-intensive and time-consuming. Moreover, dedicating staff solely to complete scheduling tasks is inefficient and prone to human errors.
With healthcare automation, scheduling services can be revolutionized. Healthtech automation systems integrate automation software with Electronic Health Records (EHRs) to streamline the process. For patients, automation improves communication with healthcare providers. Often, patients forget their appointment dates, leading to missed appointments.
Automation addresses this issue by implementing automated notifications through various communication channels, ensuring patients are reminded of their appointments. Additionally, mHealth scheduling software extends scheduling opportunities to remote areas, enhancing access to healthcare services.
3. Data Management Improvement
The effectiveness and efficiency of the healthcare industry heavily rely on the seamless handling of various data forms. Establishing a robust healthcare data strategy brings significant benefits, and providers proficient in data management gain a competitive edge in the market.
Healthcare automation plays a vital role in enhancing data management and providing a competitive advantage. Electronic Health Records (EHRs) ensure smooth data retrieval, containing comprehensive patient information. AI and ML processes then analyze this data from EHRs, making accurate predictions about the most suitable treatment options. Moreover, automated EHR tools generate real-time and extensive data, making them relevant even after being on the market for over 50 years (see Fig.5).
Figure 5. The United States Electronic Health Records market
With automation and traditional data retrieval methods, data management has become much more efficient in various aspects of healthcare service provision, such as ordering and billing. Automated EHR machines enable streamlined order processing with just a few clicks. Additionally, in billing, automation not only accelerates bill processing but also ensures prompt delivery to patients, improving overall customer satisfaction.
4. Effective Collaborative Environments
Manual handling of administrative tasks often leads to difficulties in effective collaboration among different institutions and departments. Late data updates and incorrect data transfers result in data corruption and prolonged administrative tasks. However, healthcare automation, especially AI-based healthcare apps, can significantly improve this situation.
Automation plays a key role in establishing collaborative environments that offer instant updates related to Protected Health Information (PHI) and enable seamless data access for different entities across various institutions and departments. AI automates how healthcare professionals from these departments access and update the same data, ensuring everyone has access to the latest information. This collaborative approach reduces the chances of errors and enables practitioners to utilize up-to-date information for providing the best treatment options.
5. Incorporating Agility in Healthcare
Agile project management is a unique approach that emphasizes delivering customer value quickly and efficiently. Rather than tackling a large project all at once, it is broken down into smaller parts, and each team works on their part simultaneously. This approach proves particularly effective during sudden patient influxes, such as the surge in hospital admissions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Introducing agility to healthcare allows organizations to align staffing needs with patient demands more effectively. Healthtech automation systems play a significant role in achieving tangible outcomes:
Smart beds continuously monitor respiratory and heart rates, leading to a reduction in code blue events.
Integration of Internet of Things (IoT) devices in patient homes enables more efficient appointment notifications.
AI technologies in healthcare utilize data, such as the frequency of Emergency Room (ER) visits and medicine prescription records, to anticipate the risk of patients facing mental health issues like suicide.
These examples illustrate how automation in healthcare enhances agility, providing improved data storage and management capabilities.
6. Reducing Errors and Accelerating Administrative Tasks
Incorporating human involvement in processes that require precise computation often leads to an increase in error rates. However, implementing automation through AI applications in healthcare offers a direct solution to minimize errors and expedite the delivery of administrative tasks. This becomes especially crucial in light of the number of medical error-related deaths in the United States (see Fig.6).
Figure 6. Deaths in the United States
With the burden of administrative tasks lessened for medical professionals, they can provide better services to a larger patient population. As a result, automated tools contribute to enhancing the patient experience, optimizing healthcare workflow analysis, and reducing the occurrence of errors.
7. Improving the Quality of Services
In the current landscape, healthcare organizations equipped with expertise in building healthcare applications have the opportunity to elevate the overall quality of care and service provision. Automation serves as a direct pathway to achieve precision medicine through accurate diagnoses and personalized treatment plans. Additionally, new cloud-based data management capabilities enable practitioners and physicians to leverage the advantages of automated precision medicine.
Here are a few ways healthcare automation can enhance the quality of services:
Early disease detection: Healthtech automation systems form the foundation for early disease detection and prompt treatment to prevent further progression. For instance, AI analyzes extensive patient data to identify specific conditions or inclinations toward particular diseases. As a result, early detection enables more effective and timely interventions.
Medical diagnostics: Automation empowers physicians with real-time access to patient data, enabling them to proactively manage existing conditions and prevent their exacerbation.
These two examples provide just a glimpse of how automation integrated into healthcare can elevate the quality of service provision. By enabling more precise and timely diagnostics, automation contributes to better and more effective treatment, ultimately saving patient lives.
8. Streamlining Healthcare Workflows
In the realm of healthcare service provision, managing various workflows is essential for both patients and health providers. Coordinating these routine tasks is crucial, and with the advent of Big Data, the number of workflows has increased significantly.
RPA, as previously mentioned, plays a key role in enhancing workflows by automating repetitive tasks, such as:
Logging in and out of an EHR.
Searching for patient information and retrieving data.
Entering patient notes, drug prescriptions, and medical history.
By automating these tasks, RPA efficiently handles data and facilitates seamless communication between patients and practitioners. Additionally, it enables real-time tracking of physician roles, allowing for a variety of healthcare service provision opportunities.
The benefits of healthtech automation systems are evident, as they hold great potential in improving healthcare by making it more efficient and precise. Patients can experience high-quality care delivered seamlessly, even in remote areas, particularly with the aid of mHealth data providers. Medical staff benefit from improved workflows and fewer manual tasks. For practitioners and physicians, automation translates to better diagnostics, timely care provision, and accurate treatment options. Overall, healthcare automation offers a promising future for the industry, bringing advancements that benefit all stakeholders involved.
Healthcare Automation Use Cases
Now that we have explored healthcare automation, let's examine some practical use cases that demonstrate how healthtech automation systems can provide tangible benefits in real-life settings.
Data Extraction and Retrieval
Automated data storage and management have revolutionized data access and transfer in hospitals. Instead of manually inputting patient health data into databases, automated tools handle this process seamlessly. Different facilities, institutions, and departments can easily share and update data, eliminating delays in treatment procedures. This streamlined data retrieval process enhances overall efficiency and ensures quick access to critical patient information.
The healthcare industry often faces challenges when requesting patient data from other organizations or departments, leading to delays in patient care. Automation in healthcare can address these issues effectively. By utilizing AI-powered Electronic Health Records (EHR), practitioners can send automated requests for patient data, and the system promptly retrieves and sends the required information back to the physician. To ensure the security of sensitive data, robust security measures must always be in place.
Predictive Analytics for Early Intervention
Healthtech automation systems leverage predictive analytics to identify patients at risk of developing certain conditions. By analyzing vast amounts of patient data, AI algorithms can identify patterns and risk factors associated with various diseases. This early intervention approach allows healthcare professionals to proactively provide preventive care and treatment, potentially improving patient outcomes and reducing the burden on the healthcare system.
Remote Monitoring and Telemedicine
Automation has significantly enhanced remote patient monitoring and telemedicine services. Wearable devices and IoT-enabled sensors collect real-time health data, which is then transmitted to healthcare providers through automated systems. This continuous monitoring allows for early detection of health issues and timely interventions, even in remote areas. Telemedicine platforms powered by automation enable virtual consultations, making healthcare accessible to patients regardless of their geographical location.
Medication Management and Adherence
Healthcare automation plays a vital role in medication management and adherence. Automated systems can send medication reminders to patients, ensuring they take their prescribed medications on time. Additionally, smart pill dispensers can dispense the right dosage at the scheduled intervals, reducing the risk of medication errors and enhancing patient compliance with treatment plans.
Incorporating automation into healthcare brings significant benefits, ranging from improved data management and seamless workflows to enhanced patient care and cost savings. As healthtech automation systems continue to evolve, they hold tremendous potential to revolutionize the healthcare industry and provide innovative solutions to complex challenges.
Healthcare automation systems introduce cutting-edge technologies into the healthcare industry. AI, ML, and RPA, combined with existing frameworks, have the potential to revolutionize healthcare provision. The evident advantages demonstrate that nearly every aspect of healthcare can be enhanced through automation.
By automating manual and repetitive tasks, healthcare professionals can focus their time and expertise where it is most needed. This leads to more accurate diagnosing and ultimately results in better patient care. Additionally, automation streamlines healthcare operations, making provisions more affordable, efficient, and less labor-intensive. Embracing automation in healthcare can lead to a transformative and patient-centric approach to medical services.