The rapid advancements in automation are revolutionizing business operations for organizations in practically every industry. As automation technology continues to evolve and uncover new opportunities to showcase its effectiveness, healthcare companies are one of the industries rapidly discovering the benefits of its methodologies. While hospitals are projected to invest over $50 billion dollars towards artificial intelligence and robotic process automation solutions by 2020, some in the industry are only beginning to look into the potential of these solutions and their game-changing advantages. After spending time with over 300 revenue cycle and IT executives at Becker’s 4th Annual Health & IT Revenue Cycle conference, our teams at Olive were able to garner some details behind executives’ findings and concerns. The top 5 takeaways we found include a sense of hesitation regarding the ability to prove ROI, but also reveal that the most agreed upon application of AI will prove its worth most in repetitive high volume tasks like eligibility checks, authorizations, and claims.
Robotic process automation and machine learning are often the two technologies discussed the most when broaching this topic, but what is the difference between the two? Further, which of these two work the best for a given use case? We’ll discuss the details of both methods and help you answer both of those questions in this piece.
What is robotic process automation?
It’s quite common for robotic process automation (RPA) to be thought of as actual robotic devices performing operations on an assembly line or robot constructs like The Iron Giant and Transformers. However, robots exist in other forms as part of other technologies like soft-bots, AI, sensor networks, and data analytics. Fundamentally, the simplest way to describe RPA is that it’s a process by which a repeatable rule-based task is executed through an automation solution.
Operating within predefined rules and procedures, RPA solutions are able to complete an action through a machine that would normally require human interaction. Whether the task is in a factory environment or office space, RPA can help with the construction of a component for a finished product or even help office productivity by brewing coffee through Wi-Fi enabled coffee makers. Because RPA solutions require a thoroughly practiced, documented, and familiar procedure to fulfill its automation benefits, some believe it will eliminate the need for humans in some areas, however, that isn’t really the case. RPA is designed to handle the tedious repetitive tasks humans currently must do, enabling enhanced human productivity by allowing humans to focus on the more complex and creative tasks they excel at.
Sometimes considered to be the most basic form of AI, robotic process automation is best utilized in business practices that require little skill and are performed under set parameters including how often a task needs to be executed and within specified timeframes. In healthcare applications, RPA reaps loads of benefits by allowing skilled and/or specialized staff to focus their attention towards tasks that require human cognition and subjective decision making. There are often instances within hospitals where employees with clinical skills, such as nurses and aides, are tasked with additional tasks of insurance verification and data recording. While these responsibilities are expected within their roles along with other staff members, these duties are ideal for an RPA solution to tackle. Having these non-clinical jobs being addressed through automation allows for staff to concentrate their attention on their principal tasks better suited for their skills of patient care and advocacy.
Studies have already shown that the increase of automation in processing medical records and documentation has led to a 15% decrease in the odds of in-hospital deaths and administrations that have adopted RPA have seen a 200% ROI within the first year of use (Olive AI white paper). As the U.S. nears a projected shortage of 250,000 nurses by 2025, identifying and implementing automation solutions within healthcare infrastructures has become a much more pressing need thus allowing clinical staff to dedicate their abilities towards tasks exhibiting their skillsets.
What is machine learning?
Similar to robotic process automation, the primary objective of machine learning (ML) is to also have computing technology mimic human operations. However, where RPA is required to operate within a rule and process-based environment that limits decision making under unfamiliar situations, ML truly expresses its artificial intelligence as a learning resource exhibiting what most feel is the biggest characteristic of AI; adaptation. Simply put, RPA acts more like a straightforward resource that executes actions based on its configuration, which places it in more of a grunt perspective with little freedom to “think” outside the box or exhibit any learning abilities. Machine learning, on the other hand, autonomously improves its performance over time, like humans, as the system is provided with observational data and real-world interaction. Some have even made the comparison between the two as brains over brawn with ML being the former.
In the healthcare industry, ML also adds exponential benefits to administrations acting as the router between systems and data by automating repetitive high traffic tasks. Serving as its own employee within an organization, an ML solution utilizes its own credentials to access system databases to record and report patient information or EHR (electronic health record). By following the local credential structure, this allows for seamless integration into existing systems with little change to accommodate its inclusion and no additional workflows. For example, our Olive AI can be used to perform patient insurance eligibility checks. After reviewing the patient record and history from their respective EHR, Olive can assist with checking against insurance eligibility portals. With a baseline of information gathered, the system can then proceed to offer approved solutions, compare previously approved authorizations, schedule future appointments and post-visit follow-ups, and payments. Having this level of automation 24/7 365 days of the year empowers hospital and clinic staff to center attention towards their most critical role of patient care.
An article published in Healthcare IT News reported a prediction from IDC (International Data Corporation) that global investment towards AI solutions will jump 60% this year totaling $12.5 billion and then up to $46 billion by 2020. As automation continues its seemingly endless upward trend and creates countless prospective breakthroughs in practically every industry, machine learning continues to be a key proponent towards technological advancement.
So which one is better?
To answer this question, decision-makers and executives must first determine their most critical business needs that can be best be improved through automation. Overall, robotic process automation and machine learning are both invaluable solutions that are sure to drastically enhance business performance for any organization. Some businesses may opt to incorporate an RPA option in order to automate their easier low skill functions as this will require little effort to integrate and in the smallest amount of time. Other organizations have decided to use RPA as a starting point in their AI implementation with machine learning as their end goal for automation. Nonetheless, having discussed the capabilities of both RPA and ML, it seems the only one who can determine which is better for a business is the business itself based on their requirements and ultimately the option that will provide the highest ROI over time.
At Olive, we strive to build revolutionary artificial intelligence and robotic process automation solutions for the healthcare industry that layer in ML for a more robust robotic process automation solution. Our focus is on improving business productivity through automation of the error-prone and mundane tasks of healthcare administration so that staff can focus on patient care. Our efficient cost-reducing options continue to deliver immediate positive results with Olive AI overseeing repetitious high traffic processes and workflows. These specialized tools empower our customers with the freedom to let their teams express the creativity and empathy that only a person is able to provide. Please contact us to schedule a demo of our Olive AI and let us begin developing a solution that can address your automation demands and be your first step towards an AI environment.
It’s Your Job To Figure That Out
When you’re building a product for someone, the first thing you need to know is that your customer probably doesn’t care.
They will care. Once you’ve finished the product, put it in their hands, and made their life better, then they will care.
For about as long as it takes them to remember that lunch is in an hour. Then they’re back to not caring.
Such is the life of a product creator. It’s your job to create something new for customers, but it’s not their job to care. This can seem disrespectful. You slaved away, building this product for them. You’ve sacrificed weeks, months, years of your life to make this — and they can’t be bothered to give you a little feedback?
You might feel entitled to at least some attention. You are, after all, building a product for them. Surely they can take some time out of their day to tell you what you should make.
But they won’t, for a couple of reasons:
- They don’t care enough to. They have a million other things going on in their life. Things more important than telling a programmer how to do their job.
- They’re too busy to. Chances are, they’re busy building something else for someone else. They don’t have time to sit down and go over the product with you.
- They don’t know how. They don’t have the skills to create the products they use, and they don’t have the bandwidth to sit around and come up with ways the product could be different. Studies have shown that the only feedback they can give you is feedback about what they’ve already used, not what’s possible. (Considering what’s possible is your job).
They don’t because it isn’t worth their time. People value their own time. “The majority (66%) of adults feel that valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide them with good online customer experience.”
That doesn’t mean it isn’t worth your time, because it is. The reason customers won’t give you attention isn’t that your work doesn’t matter; it’s because they have delegated the work to you and trust you to get it done. The highest authority in any business isn’t the CEO or the board, but the customers. It’s their money that pays the bills.
It’s your job to solve their problem, and to solve it with as little support as possible.
To some people, that sounds harsh. ‘You expect me to solve your problem, without your help?’ It can even seem like a tautology; how do you solve a problem you know nothing about?
In reality, it’s honorable work to have. And deep down inside, you know this. You’re in this position because you decided to make building products for other people your job. You made it your job (hopefully) not because you thought you’d get rich, or because it was easy, but because you find meaning in the work. Appealing to customers to tell you what to do not only produces a worse product; it takes the challenge and the honor out of doing it.
That said, you want to stay receptive to any feedback they have without forcing them to give it. People may not be able to imagine what will make them happy, but they can tell you how they feel about what’s in front of them right now.
Not getting in the customer’s way is almost as important as making the product in the first place. One study showed that 74% of customers are likely to switch brands if they find the buying experience difficult, no matter how awesome the product. This is a painful loss because it costs anywhere from 5 to 25 times as much to acquire a new customer as it does to keep a current one.
If your customers could help you that much, you’d be out of a job.
As it so happens, they can’t. By virtue of their position, they lack the objectivity they need to understand their problems. By virtue of their jobs, they lack the skills necessary to engineer a solution to their problems. And by virtue of their daily responsibilities, they lack the vision to consider other possibilities.
“I think Henry Ford once said, ‘If I’d asked customers what they wanted, they would have told me, “A faster horse!”’ People don’t know what they want until you show it to them. That’s why I never rely on market research. Our task is to read things that are not yet on the page.”
Your customers may not be able to actively help you, but they are still a valuable source of information. Their behavior is feedback in and of itself.
- If they receive what you build with no comment, it communicates something. It could mean that your solution is so compelling that they don’t need to worry about it anymore. Or it could mean they’re not using your solution because their previous one is easier for them.
- If they react positively, that doesn’t mean it’s time to pump the breaks. It means whatever you’re doing, you’re doing right. You should be doing more of it.
- If they receive your product with reluctance (or outright complaints), it means you’ve taken a wrong turn. Don’t wait until they complain about the product or cancel their service. Make sure to identify what’s causing the friction and solve it before it becomes a more significant problem.
“The best customer service is if the customer doesn’t need to call you, doesn’t need to talk to you. It just works.”
It’s an honor to create products for people. Nothing matches the satisfaction you get when you see something you made changing the lives of countless other people. People are leaving it up to you to create something for them. And when they start using it, you know it isn’t because someone forced it on them, but because it makes their life better.
At Olive, we make Artificial Intelligence for doctor’s offices and hospitals that handle administrative tasks, so healthcare employees can do what they do best — take care of their patients. Check out our website to learn more.
Throughout the life cycle of a product there will be ups and downs. Times when the hype is high, and times when the path forward is uncertain. These waves put pressure on the Product Manager to constantly lead, no matter the situation. What if you’re not sure that the company is moving in the right direction? Or you’re not confident in the performance of an upcoming release?
If you feel this, you’re likely not alone, but as the leader of the product, you must project optimism in order to keep your team with you.
Whether you like it or not, people are looking at you. They pick up on your expressions, your reactions, and your attitude. When you are bearish on a decision, that attitude has a way of permeating through the product team and other stakeholders. People will divest in the effort and become skeptical about the path. Projecting optimism will do just the opposite. Showing that you’re confident in a positive outcome will give the rest of your team something positive to look forward to. It will keep those around you calm in the face of uncertainty, and will give them a reason to follow you. It will even give your team confidence that a solution can be found in difficult situations.
Successful PdMs will need to lead teams and products through thick and thin. Being optimistic about your future and confident in your decisions will keep you and your team feeling positive and focused on moving forward. Next time you notice confidence weaning on your team, try projecting optimism about the situation, because if you don’t—who will?