The healthcare guide to scaling automation

January 11, 2021

Automation opportunities exist across every level of a health system, and with them is the potential to radically transform the healthcare industry. RPA and artificial intelligence solutions are a rapidly growing market as the technologies improve and new applications develop, with many health systems looking to implement automation at their hospitals. But today, the reality in most hospitals is that automations, or bots, are typically applied as standalone solutions instead of being deployed at scale across the organization, which is where true transformation happens.

Process automation at scale, through advanced artificial intelligence technologies such as machine learning and natural language processing, can tackle more of the operational functions in your healthcare system than you realize, with ripple effects benefitting the entire healthcare ecosystem. From patient to payer, artificial intelligence can cut out much of the administrative waste that burdens the system. A 2017 analysis by the McKinsey Global Institute found that 36% of the activities employees perform in healthcare could be automated – surely that number has grown since then.

Scaling automation enables healthcare to actually achieve all the benefits AI has to offer – fewer errors, improved efficiency, more time for patient care – while reducing the implementation load and financial resources necessary to deploy the technology. By using the systems and programs already in place, artificial intelligence and automation at scale are the best way to address many of the problems in healthcare in a fast and cost-effective manner.

Here are six tips to help you succeed at scaling automation and artificial intelligence at your healthcare organization:

1. Plan for scale by creating an enterprise AI and automation strategy

The most critical piece of scaling AI and automation at your organization is to plan for scale. If you start with piecemeal solutions, scattered throughout departments, it will be difficult to achieve the scale you need for transformation. Each new application of the technology will require evaluating vendors, allocating budget, gaining buy-in, educating employees… that process is simply too time-consuming to enable organizations to deploy AI throughout entire workflows and multiple departments.

When you develop an enterprise-wide strategy, you create a plan for the governance, structure, and goals of your AI program, significantly increasing the speed at which you can implement AI projects. A comprehensive strategic plan will guide you more smoothly and quickly through the entire AI process, from evaluation to implementation and into the future as you deploy AI and automation throughout the enterprise.

2. Create a roadmap for transformation

With so many opportunities, from claims processing to appointment scheduling to drug authorizations, it can be overwhelming to choose a starting point. But creating a roadmap will help you manage your internal time and resources, stay focused on priorities, and ensure your AI and automation solutions deliver the results your organization needs.

To start, you need to identify and then prioritize all of your candidate processes for automation. The best processes for automation are repetitive, high-volume, and rule-based tasks. To next prioritize these processes and develop your roadmap, you should look at both impact and speed, so you can deliver quick wins while keeping sight of your longer-term objectives. For more insight into identifying candidate processes, check out our blog 5 Questions for Identifying Candidate Processes for Automation in Healthcare.

3. Find an internal artificial intelligence champion

Adopting widespread AI and transforming the backbone of how a health system operates is not a small undertaking. At Olive, we think it is a realistic and achievable goal, but we don’t want to diminish the internal commitment a transformation like this requires. Having an internal advocate to champion your AI and automation initiative will help you generate the enthusiasm and engagement necessary for success. We think this is so important that we’ve created a post on 7 tips for championing AI at your healthcare organization.

4. Choose an AI-as-a Service (AI-a-a-S) partner

The right vendors and partners for AI can make a huge difference in your success with intelligent automation – we believe the right partner is an AI-as-a-Service partner (and healthcare executives tend to agree). With AI-as-a-Service, healthcare organizations don’t have to be AI experts; they can take advantage of the expertise and experience of their partner. Placing more of the responsibility for deploying and maintaining automations with the vendor partner ensures that AI doesn’t fall on your organization’s back burner after an initial push. An AI-as-a-Service provider will enable you to maximize the possibilities of your AI while you stay focused on providing exceptional patient care.

5. Engage your human workforce

To reach the full potential of AI and automation, the mindset of your entire organization needs to change. Employees at all levels need to embrace the technologies. Making AI part of your strategic plan will start to help employees understand the importance of automation initiatives, including how AI fits into your organization’s vision.

AI and automation can face fear and resistance, but employee adoption and acceptance are necessary to achieve scale. Employees need to be heard so they can offer feedback and ensure the new workflows are working as intended. Health systems should also commit to redeploying, retraining, and upskilling employees whose work has changed due to automations. Through clear messaging and change management practices, employees can be fully engaged with your AI initiatives.

6. Maintain an AI and automation AlphaSite

As individuals and departments start to realize the potential of AI and automation, some health system CIOs are creating an AlphaSite for their health system’s AI initiative. But how many of those health systems are successful at scaling AI and automation? A recent study by Accenture showed that 87% of healthcare executives have failed to scale AI and RPA across their organization. Overwhelmed IT resources, fragmented solutions, and a lack of visibility limit the potential of artificial intelligence and lead to frustration instead of excitement. An AI command center can be transformative, but AI-as-a-Service options – like the Olive AlphaSite – helps reduce the burden on your staff, create internal governance that oversees all projects, and lead to better management, optimization and success.

Automation at scale is the future of healthcare

It’s time for healthcare organizations to embrace AI and automation, integrating it into their strategy and deploying it at scale throughout the enterprise. It’s how we, as an industry, will cut costs, reduce errors, and improve patient care, without disrupting the core technologies and IT systems already in place.

Olive is working today at more than 600 hospitals, transforming healthcare workflows with AI and automation. From the revenue cycle to the supply chain to pharmacy and more, Olive’s vision of the AI-Powered Hospital is the driver behind everything we do. For a behind-the-scenes look at how one Olive customer scaled AI at their organization, download our case study Large mid-Atlantic health system rapidly scales to an enterprise-wide AI workforce.