Workflow Automation in Healthcare

The healthcare vertical market is highly dependent on the accurate and timely delivery of information. Making that process efficient and effective can significantly improve the delivery of high-quality care.

Like the paper records they replace, electronic health records (EHR) include vital patient information such as medical history, diagnoses, medications, treatment plans, and laboratory and test results, as well as billing information, and patient demographics. Being able to exchange this information between healthcare institutions and patients is essential in the modern healthcare environment.  EHRs also enable the provision of layers of security to protect personal health information (PHI) and are required under the HITECH act for physicians to meet “meaningful use” criteria to receive higher payments for patients who have government insurance.

Many workflows involve the handling of EHRs. Automating those workflows can increase staff efficiency, reduce costly errors, improve interoperability, generate better patient outcomes by increasing the quality of care, and increase revenue for healthcare institutions. Any workflow or process that has redundant day to day activities or steps that are still carried out manually are ideal candidates to automate.

Some benefits of workflow automation

Patient Outcomes. Improvements in patient outcomes are increased by standardizing and automating workflows for patients throughout all points of their care. Automating these workflows not only delivers higher quality care faster, using workflow analytics enhancements in care plans can be triggered that can help health professionals make better decisions regarding the total care plan of the patient. Over time, automation and workflow analytics can help healthcare professionals identify patients who are not sticking to their care plan and allow time for intervention to ensure their conditions don’t worsen.

Patient Communication. Identifying and automating patient communication is an excellent way to improve patient outcomes, cut costs, and administer a higher quality of care. Automating appointment scheduling and reminders, drug prescription fulfillment and refills, and general patient engagement (phone calls, text messages, and emails) reduces missed appointments, ensures proper drug prescription fulfillment and refills at the proper time, and provides an overall better patient experience. Automating workflows around these communications present excellent prospects to cut costs and manage revenue opportunities, eliminate dangerous prescription errors and refills, and grow a satisfied patient community.

Surveys. As part of effective patient communications, surveys play a considerable role in achieving effective patient outcomes. Surveys can be automatically delivered to patients after office visits or other healthcare instances to gather valuable feedback regarding their experience at the clinic or healthcare institution. This feedback data can then be used to enhance care coordination, improve other processes, and gather other relevant information for staff education that will improve overall patient engagement.

Medical Staff Scheduling. Electronic systems can be used to automate staff schedules and avoid conflicts while ensuring staff is available to accommodate the busier periods of the practice. Staff scheduling automation can also be used to balance staff loads depending upon the experience and capabilities of each staff member.

Revenue Cycle Management. The revenue cycle management (RCM) workflow can be automated to reduce billing errors, reduce patient complaints and speed up the payment of insurance to the healthcare facility. Patient accounts can be grouped and priced accordingly to eliminate undercharging or overcharging. Edits and exception analysis on only those bills in question can be done comparing billings with services provided and then better understand what was paid compared to the obligations detailed in contracted costs.

Copay Collection and Insurance Verification. Automated insurance verification and appropriate copay collection coordination is another workflow process that significantly benefits the practice. Requiring an interface with multiple payers allows an electronic check to ensure the correct copay amount is collected at the appropriate point of care.

Coding, Billing Submission and Tracking. A complex part of any practice, automating coding rather than manually entering codes will reduce or eliminate coding errors. Correct codes mean fewer verifications or insurance refusals and improve the revenue cycle time for the practice. Automating billing submission eliminates the need to call multiple payers to verify patient copay obligations and can leverage automated processes integrated into electronic practice management solutions. Implementing automated means for tracking paid or unpaid claims as well as payment collection status increases administration office staff productivity, improves revenue flow and creates better patient experiences.

These are just a few of the areas in which workflow automation is being used in healthcare to deliver many benefits to doctors, clinics, hospitals, and institutions. Automating processes not only brings the benefits discussed, but workflow automation also makes it more practical and efficient to comply with regulations like HIPAA and the growing personal privacy concerns of today.

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Amy Weiss

Amy Weiss

is editor-in-chief of BPO Media’s publications Workflow and The Imaging Channel, and senior analyst for BPO Research. She has more than 20 years professional writing and editing experience and has specialized in the office technology industry for the last 15 years, focusing on areas including print and imaging hardware and supplies, workflow automation, managed print, document management solutions and software, business solutions and more.
Amy Weiss

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