Intelligent automation gives health systems an edge

The advantage begins at the front door

For innovative health systems, now is the time to take inventory of the past 10 months of the Coronavirus public health crisis, which have included significant changes to make in-person care more safe and virtual care more scalable.

Yet for many, it’s also an opportunity to reflect on how modern technology can empower health systems to deliver more intuitive and connected healthcare experiences. One tangible example of this effort is the digitization and automation of administrative workflows, which allow health systems to reimagine the patient care experience and expand the capabilities of an overextended workforce.

The pressures imposed by the current healthcare landscape necessitate a new approach for streamlining workflows that help patients get the most out of every episode of care, from improving the check-in experience to simplifying post-visit follow-up. As is the case with so many other challenges facing health systems, the solution begins at the start of the patient journey.

Waiting rooms are out, digital check-in is in.

In my current role, I’ve spent the last several months working with Notable Health to automate the administrative workflows of patient intake at Intermountain Healthcare. The early data, which was recently made public, gives a snapshot of the results realized when a health system puts intelligent automation to work. And one thing is clear: it starts at the “digital” front door.

In an initial deployment across 100 Intermountain providers in the Salt Lake City region, more than half of all patients are now completing their entire registration process digitally, prior to their office visit, which decreases front desk check-in time by 25%. This means less time spent in the waiting room (where the risk of possible exposure to viruses may be elevated), reduced contact with front office staff, and fewer shared supplies like clipboards and pens

Intermountain patients are experiencing a reimagined digital intake process that assists with administrative workflows and ranges from registration and insurance eligibility to clinical history gathering and medication review, all powered by automation that personalizes each set of intakes to a patient’s unique medical history. Patients can now complete their entire check-in, directly from their smartphone, before their visit for a safe, touchless, and paper-free experience.

One of the pleasantly surprising findings here was that patients over 65, a group some might assume could reject digital transactions, are actually embracing it with enthusiasm. In the data from our initial deployment at Intermountain, patient satisfaction ratings for digital check-in and registration topped 86% for patients 65 and older.

Engage before the visit, to better address the type of care patients require.

COVID-19 has caused many patients to delay routine care, including preventive health visits and procedures, which can have adverse, long-term effects on patient health – as well as the downstream capacity of the healthcare system. Through intelligent automation, health systems can configure and automate outreach to patients who require preventive care without added administrative or operational burden. In this way, intelligent automation is used to identify the patients most in need of a scheduled visit, offer virtual visit options when appropriate, and bring back the lost patient care volume that many systems are experiencing.

The process of automating manual, repetitive tasks also extends to the patient’s post-visit experience. When appropriate, patients can be automatically provided with intelligent questionnaires after their visit that solicit patient-reported outcome measures (PROMs), which collect objective and relevant data about a patient’s clinical trajectory to guide treatment decisions. Once collected, this data can be automatically entered into clinical registries and electronic medical record data fields.

Automate to give providers the one thing they need most: time.

A fully automated digital experience isn’t just for patients. Providers can benefit immensely from intelligent automation by streamlining the processing of collecting structured and unstructured data from patients before the visit. Pre-visit intake forms can be used to automate history taking, clinical documentation, and even order entry. These services have saved providers more than 4 minutes per patient per day during COVID-19, an 82 percent time savings compared to the status quo. For physicians like me, this means more time delivering care and less time documenting it.

As we plan for the next chapter of patient care, and look to anticipate the needs of our patients beyond the pandemic, health systems have an opportunity to build on the transformative progress that has been made. We’ve learned over the past several months that now is our opportunity to define new ways of identifying and engaging patients in need of care, supporting fully virtual environments for check-in and registration, and alleviating provider administrative burden, all powered by intelligent automation and digital patient experiences. In a period that’s been marked by a slew of grim milestones, this is reason for hope.

About the Author

Muthu Alagappan, MD, is an attending physician at UCSF Medical Center, a trained engineer and medical director at Notable Health.