By Sam Salbi, CEO, FitLyfe
Automation may summon dystopian visions of a labor force crowded out by machines that work 24/7, don’t take breaks, or demand a competitive benefits package. But, according to Accenture’s report Intelligent Automation Is Changing Healthcare, 2016, “Intelligent automation really means combining technology with people to get a job done — either in a more effective way or a more productive way.” The report goes on to state, “Intelligent automation is healthcare’s essential new coworker for the digital age because it takes things off the ‘thinking list’—adding value while lessening burden.”
Intelligent automation is not about laying off workers and replacing them with machines; it’s about elevating them to high-functioning roles which ultimately improves service quality and, as it relates to healthcare and wellness, outcomes.
Intelligent automation can be — and indeed in many ways already is — a force for good in improving healthcare delivery and outcomes. Consider the following impacts: decreased operational costs (claims administration, claims adjudication and processing, payment integrity complaints, and appeals), improved data analytics (tasks executed by robots allow for analysis), increased regulatory compliance (steps are tracked, traceable, and documented), increased efficiency and accuracy, higher employee productivity (software agents handle repetitive tasks, freeing workers to focus on higher-level activities), and improved member and provider management (account setup, eligibility, and enrollment, billing, and customer service).
But what we’ll start to see in the coming year is a shift from transactional automation to analytic automation as it begins to be applied to higher-level problem solving and critical thinking. This will move the conversation from cost reduction to quality, engagement, and innovation and will have significant ramifications for the way population health and wellness programs are designed, deployed, and utilized. Following are two examples:
- Intelligent automation can more precisely segment and engage a given health population by using biometric, lab, and demographic data to create a highly personalized treatment path for each user. Aggregating and analyzing these data points can then be used to automate the proactive delivery of prompts for preventive screenings and timely recommendations, as well as clinical and wellness resources based on each patient profile. This would enable users to take greater responsibility for their health and wellbeing, as each personalized path would give them access to the information, tools, and easy access to care they need when they need it, simplifying and improving individual care management.
- Intelligent automation can be applied to monitoring and assessing programs/initiatives that are or aren’t working and help administrators make better decisions on what to keep and what to eliminate. Many standard population health or wellness platforms embed programs that provide little meaningful insight into their performance. As a result, these programs become further and further entrenched, despite the lack of transparency regarding their efficacy. This tends to reinforce the sunk cost fallacy that too often perpetuates a bad decision, making it more likely a person or organization continues with an activity in which they have already invested money, time, or effort — even if they would not start the activity had they not already invested in it. The greater the size of the sunken investment the more people tend to invest further, even when the return on added investment appears not to be worthwhile. This trap is sometimes described as throwing good money after bad because the resources and effort are already lost, no matter what you do now. Applying intelligent automation to programs or initiatives baked into your health/wellness system will prevent this, enabling you to hold them accountable for performance metrics that are most meaningful to you versus those applied by vendors whose goals may not align with yours.
Intelligent automation is the future and, per the above, has huge implications for healthcare — from improving diagnostics and patient care to using actionable analytics to improve engagement and outcomes. The challenge is not only finding the right technology that allows you to apply a sophisticated level of automation, but in understanding that automation is, ironically, labor-intensive.
Typically, companies automate the chaos and end up with … automated chaos. Success begins by asking the fundamental question: what specific needs/objectives will automation solve? As automation technology becomes more powerful and refined, it will require dedicated and forward-thinking staff — HR, IT, senior management — working in concert to fully leverage its promise in meeting the single most important goal for any healthcare organization: improving outcomes.
About The Author
Sam Salbi is the CEO of FitLyfe, gofitlyfe.com, developers of custom-built population health and wellness automation solutions that increase utilization and improve outcomes through personalized engagement. FitLyfe empowers and educates consumers to take responsibility for their health by providing tools and resources uniquely tailored for each health and lifestyle profile. Organizations benefit from the ability to more strategically administer their incentive design and allocate their resources, track and measure trends and impact, reduce duplication and error, and, ultimately, cut costs through efficiencies, member retention, and improved health outcomes. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org