The United States spends about $1 trillion per year on healthcare administration. 95% of healthcare workforce growth since 1990 has been administrative. But adding administrative staff hasn’t helped health systems stay on top of the increase in manual work queues, and it certainly hasn’t been improving outcomes for patients. So when asked if automation can drive better health system outcomes, through my work in healthcare technology, I know for a fact that it already is.
Research has shown automation’s power to eliminate inefficiencies and reduce waste. The 2021 CAQH Index estimated that the medical industry has already saved $166 billion through automation, and further automation could save an additional 48% of the total money spent on administrative transactions. Greater efficiency yields better financial outcomes as well as a better patient experience.
Automation reduces humor error
As a whole, medical errors cost $20 billion per year. If we examine billing alone, about 80% of medical bills contain an error. Human staff can easily let their attention slip while performing high volumes of repetitive tasks, or details might be captured incorrectly as information transfers from one administrator to another.
The key here is not just automation, but combining it with intelligence that ensures that the correct data is accurately entered into the appropriate systems. For example, having a patient take a photo of their insurance card, which is then uploaded into a website, and is processed automatically by AI is inherently less error-prone than typing in a number.
This approach also enhances the reliability and consistency of data. The presence of accurate data is key in driving improvements. Software can easily examine claims that were bounced back and compare them to claims that went through, to develop a strategy to reduce denials. Over time, I’ve seen eligibility and registration denials reduced by 83% using this iterative method.
Automation increases overall productivity
The SelectUSA report, “Robots and the Economy”, estimates that automation could raise productivity by 0.8%, boosting the output of each worker. The same report posits that 45% of work activities could be automated. In particular, there is high potential to automate the collecting and processing of data. Most employees don’t like doing the kinds of repetitive tasks that automation excels at, and one Salesforce survey found that 89% of employees are more satisfied with their jobs after using automation. It gives them time back for skilled work; and in healthcare, this means staff can spend more time with patients.
Done well, automation has the potential not only to enable staff to get more done, but also to be happier in their roles and less likely to churn. The average cost of turnover across all healthcare positions is around $60,000, and since 2015, the average hospital has turned over 89% of its workforce. Retaining staff is increasingly important in the current labor market, and has a dramatic impact on health system finances.
Getting creative about reimagining the way healthcare is delivered could yield further savings. With sophisticated enough tools, such as automated outreach to patients and self-serve scheduling, fewer and fewer phone calls are necessary to complete the registration process. Imagine the savings from being able to do away with the call center entirely.
Automation means a better patient experience
Today, health systems are well aware that patients expect a digital experience, and are willing to shop around to find it. Patients want to be able to engage with their health systems digitally, at their own convenience, whenever they have the time and would prefer that their providers be proactive in communicating with them. While health systems want to prioritize these goals, many organizations find they have not made as much progress as they would like.
Currently, much of the onus of remembering care tasks rests with the patient, largely because staff didn’t have the bandwidth to be more proactive. Automation opens up the possibility of proactive outreach, something most health systems struggle to do well because of resource constraints. When health systems reach out to patients to close their care gaps, they can connect with three times the number of patients they would normally see. This drives improved patient outcomes, as it helps patients stay on top of their preventative screenings and prompts them to book any necessary follow-up appointments with their specialists. Patients appreciate the help with staying on top of their care needs.
Automation is the future
Not only can automation drive business outcomes for health systems, but it will also be crucial to remaining competitive over the next few years. The old approach of throwing more staff at problems is going to become increasingly outdated and ineffective as patients and staff demand a better experience, and disruptors enter the healthcare market. The question is no longer whether automation can drive better outcomes – we have an abundance of evidence that it already has – the question is which health systems are going to adapt as the market changes. Will yours?
About Pranay Kapadia
Pranay Kapadia is Co-founder and CEO at Notable. After years of hearing his family of physicians object to the state of technology in healthcare, Pranay founded Notable to enrich every patient-provider interaction and eliminate manual burdens for staff and providers.
Pranay has focused his career on tackling problems at the synapse of data, finance and user experience — defining and building products that simplify ease of use while reducing financial paperwork within highly regulated industries. Prior to Notable, Pranay and his co-founding team worked to revolutionize how millions of people file for mortgages. As Vice President of Product Management at Blend, a technology company reconstructing the mortgage and lending industry, Pranay worked with customers like Wells Fargo, US Bank, and Fannie Mae to bring simplicity and transparency to consumer banking. He also held multiple roles at Intuit, leading Mint.com, Quicken and QuickBooks.