Battling COVID-19 With Bots: Four Ways How RPA and Intelligent Automation Can Help Healthcare Providers

Battling COVID-19 With Bots: Four Ways How RPA and Intelligent Automation Can Help Healthcare Providers

  • Pawan Jadhav
  • January 20, 2021
Category: Robotic Process Automation, Healthcare, AI

So what software bots cannot treat COVID-19 patients? They can be great volunteers in assisting our healthcare warriors in doing so by setting them free from the tedious before and after-treatment procedures.

The COVID-19 Impact on Healthcare

It is almost a year since COVID-19 seeped into our lives; flipping both our lifestyle and livelihood. The one which we considered as the normal flu that will go away in a few months turned out to be such a deadly pandemic; that it is still hovering upon us. There is no human or industry sector left who has not experienced the wrath of Coronavirus but, above all, it is the healthcare and the people associated with it who have been robbed of everything and are still risking their lives for us.

Our healthcare system is terribly burdened as they are challenged with the need to provide prompt support to an overwhelming number of patients and are on the verge of breaking. The least we can do to help our healthcare is to support them in this demanding time. A lot has changed and improved the functioning of healthcare due to scientific and technological advancements but still; there is so much left, adopting which, can not only lessen the load of healthcare but can also speed up the handling of the pile of work before and after the treatment.

Many innovations emerged in healthcare to battle the pandemic like a ventilator with splitters to use one ventilator for multiple patients, 3D printed personal protective equipment (PPE) for front-line workers, automatic sanitizer dispenser, etc. but, the sector where change actually and the most required is in the front and back-office operations of healthcare. Automation in the tedious and time-consuming managerial tasks like patient data collection, onboarding, appointment scheduling, billing and claims processing etc. has become a need of the hour. It is also the area where significant issues like long response times, documentation backlogs, supply chain bottlenecks, employee burden and absenteeism arise that lead to less focus on patients and patient experience.

Therefore, its high time healthcare organizations start adopting Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and Intelligent automation to mitigate the challenges and drive enhanced efficiency and growth – all while improving patient care. So, let's understand the four use cases of RPA and Intelligent Automation in the healthcare industry.

1. COVID-19 Data Reporting

The government needs to keep track of the count of Coronavirus cases by treatment status, age, locations, deaths etc., to assess the effect of COVID-19 on health care, to make decisions and provide support accordingly. With patients flooding hospitals, it is becoming pretty challenging for healthcare providers to gather patient data and report it to the government on a timely basis.

covid-19-data reporting Moreover, with an enforcement timeline of 14 weeks announced by CMS (The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services) - an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), to the participating hospital organizations in government COVID-19 program to meet the daily reporting requirements for COVID-19 and flu data or risk losing their participation in the Medicare (primary medical coverage provider for seniors and those with a disability) and Medicaid (designed for people with limited income) programs; the managerial tasks of healthcare even more doubled up.

Hospitals now are compelled to submit daily data that includes COVID-19 deaths and hospitalization i.e. patients currently undergoing treatment in the intensive care unit. They must also report their inventory of the COVID-19 therapy, staffing shortages, the number of ventilators and a weekly report on their personal protective equipment on hand and supply of critical medications all while they are already brimming with paperwork.

How Can RPA Help?

The pressure on the healthcare system can be lessened to a great extent by automating the data-gathering and reporting process leveraging Intelligent Automation technology such as Robotic Process Automation (RPA) as it can easily address any challenges related to manual work, error risks, data accuracy without any human intervention as follows:

  • RPA software bots can be programmed to automatically gather all related patient data for Covid-19 reporting purposes
  • They then process and convert the gathered data into an acceptable format for the care facility and reporting submission within government sites and submit the reports on their own seeking humans only when necessary. Thus, several hours of hospital staff can be saved from such manual, data-driven, and data-entry type work by allowing RPA process bots to take care of it and allow the healthcare providers to focus on patients more.

2. Rehabilitation Post-COVID

Rehabilitation Post-COVID Countries around the world are now experiencing different phases of pandemic. While some are successful in flattening the curve, some are seeing a spike again, or the worst - reinfection. Although the recovery rate is fair enough, it is still a mystery whether the recovered patients are completely free from the virus or not as in most cases; rehabilitation is required. According to a study in the Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine, twenty percent of patients recovering from COVID-19 will require facility-based rehab.

Rehabilitation in post-acute COVID-19 recovery is becoming necessary as the deadly virus is leaving behind long-term impairment and disability like loss of smell and taste, breathing difficulty, fatigue, brain fog, physical deconditioning and muscle weakness, etc. in cured patients which require rehab sessions to reduce the impact of COVID-19 on the health and function of people. In fact, it is expected that at least 700,000 in Americans recovering from COVID-19 will require inpatient rehabilitative care, according to Health Affairs.

Rehab can help optimizing health and functioning outcomes of the patient, reducing Intensive Care Unit -admission related complications as well as readmission, reducing disability or the experience thereof, addressing physical, cognitive and swallowing impairments, early discharge, etc.

RPA’s role in Rehab

Robotic Process Automation can serve as a source for “recovery from pandemic aftermath" very well. RPA can be of great help, especially in the current economic downturn as they are the best way to manage the demand peaks, cut costs, and in freeing up employees for higher-value tasks.

Since rehabilitation is carried out based on the patient's condition, it requires vast amounts of patient's data from personal information to treatment cycle details, medical records and reports which RPA can extract effortlessly within a blink of an eye. Moreover, the RPA process bots can manipulate collected data to generate analytics that offers clinical staff valuable insights to help them make more accurate diagnoses and offer tailored rehabilitation services to the recovered patients.

It can further help in scheduling appointments, follow-ups, based on its defining attributes — including location, diagnosis and insurance carrier. Last but not least, the role of Robotic Process Automation in revolutionizing Revenue Cycle Management of healthcare i.e the handling of the complete claim processing which includes data input, processing and evaluation that are extremely time-consuming and laborious, can be taken care of by RPA at bullet-speed, without any errors.

3. Telehealth

One of the rising trends amidst the global pandemic that we all witnessed is Telehealth which appeared to be of great help during such an unfortunate event. Telehealth is the delivery and facilitation of health and health-related services including medical care, provider and patient education, health information services, and self-care via telecommunications and digital communication technologies such as computers and mobile devices in the form of live video conferencing, mobile health apps, “store and forward” electronic transmission, and remote patient monitoring (RPM) to manage healthcare remotely.


When the lockdown was imposed to curb the spread of the virus, Telehealth made healthcare accessible to the people via patient portals, virtual appointments, remote monitoring, health apps etc. In fact, the use of Telehealth jumped from 11 percent in 2019 to 46 percent i.e. from $3billion to $250 billion in the US itself.

How can RPA make a difference?

Encouraging people to sign up for telehealth, patient onboarding, scheduling video calls, patient 360-degree view etc. can be automated using RPA. The artificial intelligence health bots can rapidly analyze data unique to each case so clinicians and patients can coordinate effectively on treatment plans for higher patient satisfaction.

Here is an example of how RPA bots in Telehealth can transform the delivery of healthcare services.

CIO Daniel Barchi of NewYork-Presbyterian successfully implemented telemedicine, artificial intelligence and robotic process automation into their health system's operational workflows, and the result was astonishing. With the implementation of RPA in their operational and back-office space, the hectic process of bill payment and claims follow-up no longer pressurized their staff and also freed them for more important tasks. Their bots take care of everything from scanning bills and applicable records from the patient encounter to conducting appropriate follow-up with payers.

4. Medicaid

Enrollment for Medicaid - a jointly funded public health insurance program by the federal government and the states, skyrocketed during the pandemic with people realizing that health is more important than anything.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis due to the unprecedented job losses in the United States, which led to an increase in the national unemployment rate from 3.5 percent in February to 13.3 percent in May, triggered the enrollment for Medicaid like never before.

medicaid The importance of Medicaid was seen back in 2008-09 when the United States suffered the Great Recession. Although at present there is a similar kind of economic hardship, the impact of COVID-19 pandemic differs in several ways. First, the count of job loss in the COVID-19 pandemic greatly exceeds that in the Great Recession. Second, there is a vast difference in the patterns of job losses and employer-sponsored health insurance industry-wise. Third, disenrolling of Medicaid is not allowed as per the Families First Coronavirus Response Act until the federal public health emergency declaration ends as a condition of receiving enhanced federal Medicaid funding.

During the lockdown, out of 44 states, (including Washington, D.C.), thirty-seven states posted enrollment reports for 2020 and the total Medicaid enrollment rose by 2.3 million people between March 1 and May 1 2020.

Medicaids are managed by states and they differ in criteria like eligibility, services covered, reimbursement etc. There are other programs such as the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) along with Medicaid to provide health coverage for indigents and minors that too are funded by states. Some of the famous players are Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS) program, California: Medi-Cal, Connecticut: HUSKY D, New Jersey: NJ FamilyCare, and Washington Apple Health.

How can RPA contribute to Medicaid?

Submitting, evaluating, and processing of claims is the most tiresome and time-consuming process that can be made easy and quick by employing RPA bots to do the job. One of the best examples of RPA in action is Texas's Medicaid Health Partnership (TMHP), who provides outsourced and third-party Medicaid services, such as claims and enrollment processes to the state government, where its the RPA bots that are handling the claim processing sector smoothly. With the implementation of RPA into their claims processing, they were able to free countless hours which their staff were spending behind thousands of medical records to ensure the accuracy of Medicare Advantage payments.

Wrapping up

It can be confidently said from the above facts and figures that RPA is a vital tool to navigate not just the current global health crisis but any such turbulent times. The use cases of RPA bots in healthcare are not just limited to the above four, in fact, they can help healthcare a lot more than one can imagine by automating processes relating to documentation and regulatory monitoring and combating influxes in demand due to COVID-19.

In short, from accelerating COVID-19 testing, automating test results reporting, monitoring the health status of an organization's workforce, compiling detailed daily reports, centralizing data from areas impacted by COVID-19, accelerating healthcare hiring, setting up remote work stations, enabling procurement to manage the influx of medical supply orders, speeding up patient diagnosis, and much more, RPA in healthcare can make the day-to-day easier for staff, while improving the patient experience, reducing costs and improving efficiency.