Only half of hospital leaders report being "familiar" with the premise of AI and robotic process automation (RPA), and only half plan to invest in the technology for their institutions by 2021.
That was the consensus of a study carried out by digital healthcare consulting firm Olive, which found that more than 50 percent of leaders were unable to name an AI/RPA vendor or solution.
“We’re still in the early stages of AI adoption in healthcare and there is an educational process for those looking at technology that improves efficiency across the enterprise,” Rebecca Hellmann, chief marketing officer of Olive, told HCB News. “An important piece of that education is learning to identify the places where RPA can make the most impact within an organization. This means evaluating where employees are spending the most time on high-volume, repetitive, rule-based tasks. Ultimately, automating such processes or workflows with the addition of a “digital employee” can dramatically impact efficiency.”
The introduction of digitization to the healthcare sphere, combined with complex reimbursement protocols, has led to the need for new administrative processes that in turn have raised operational costs across hospitals and healthcare systems. Hospitals are spending an estimated $1 trillion on these administrative expenses, with the largest component being labor. This is due to a desire to improve efficiency and reduce costs, which is one of the top three priorities among providers, according to the study, along with improving quality of care and patient satisfaction.
AI/RPA is use-case agnostic, and is expected to grow in automating high-volume, repetitive tasks for supply chain, revenue cycle management, accounting and finance, and human resources.
Yet only 23 percent of the 115 executives interviewed claimed to be looking into ways to invest in AI/RPA for their institutions today. Of all who showed some desire to implement the technology at some point, 43 percent preferred a company building, delivering, monitoring and supporting automations, 26 percent wanted to choose the platform themselves and hire consultants to build the solution; 18 percent preferred choosing the platform and having their employees build the solution; and 13 percent wanted to hire consultants to both choose the platform and build the solution.
Those familiar with AI/RPA, according to Hellmann, are two times more likely to implement the technology for their workflow challenges, rather than leverage their existing systems.
“One in three of the dollars spent in healthcare is earmarked for administrative costs. Repetitive, high-volume tasks like processing insurance claim information is a perfect place for AI/RPA to increase efficiency across organizations,” she said. “Ultimately, this enables human employees to focus on tasks that require a more human touch — and hospitals can reallocate those funds to make more resources available for tasks that directly benefit patients.”
Executives interviewed included chief financial officers, chief information officers, revenue cycle managers and supply chain functional leaders at hospital systems and independent hospitals in the U.S.
The survey was conducted alongside Sage Growth Partners, an independent healthcare market research, consulting and marketing firm.