What is Robotic Process Automation (RPA)?
Many organizations have turned their attention to automation to eliminate or reduce time-consuming tasks. This technology allows employees to focus on work that brings more value to the bottom line. With Robotic Process Automation (RPA), organizations automate tedious tasks, such as processing transactions, inputting data, and sending communications. Implementing an RPA into your organization can reduce the cost of labor and the risks associated with human error. Your clients may also see improved response times and accuracy of information sharing.
David Landreman, CPO at Olive, describes RPA as, "the process by which a software bot uses a combination of automation, computer vision, and machine learning to automate repetitive, high-volume tasks that are rule-based and trigger-driven."
What is RPA as a Service Model (RPAaaS)
Although you may not have known it, RPA services differ from RPA-as-a-Service. RPA services refers to an all-encompassing suite of automation products sold by providers to other organizations. Contrarily, Uday Birajdar, a Forbes Councils Member, explains RPAaaS as "an easy way of giving the developers automation superpowers without the incumbent fixed costs of infrastructure and licenses." Organizations that are just diving into this technology can benefit from cost savings by going in the direction of RPAaaS. That is because of scalability—only paying for the automation features needed instead of a full suite of products.
RPA Use Cases in Healthcare
The use of automation in the medical field is not widely adopted - yet. In research obtained by AI Multiple, it is expected that the RPA market in general will reach $5 billion by 2024. The data also suggests that healthcare will be one of the fastest growing sectors when it comes to the implementation of this technology. The healthcare industry is home to many tedious processes, which should come as no surprise when one considers the amount of (sensitive) data that needs to be collected, analyzed and shared.
You might be wondering, what are RPA use cases in healthcare? There are a few that should grab your attention:
- Scheduling: No need to call in to make an appointment. RPA allows patients to schedule their appointments online. A real-time calendar ensures that patients see the most up to date availability, while hospital staff do not need to worry about manually moving appointments around. An automated system will ensure that there are no double-bookings, or appointments before or after operating hours.
- Claims: When a patient finishes a treatment, they are often provided a bill which can be paid out of pocket, or by a third-party insurance company. Handling payments, especially from a third-party insurance company, can be time-consuming. Having an automated system to issue and accept payments as per an official invoice ensures accuracy and reduces the risk of fraud.
- Comply with local and federal regulations: Depending on where you are located, local and federal governments impose regulations to protect personal health information (PHI). On a federal level, those in the United States will be familiar with HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. To ensure compliance, HIPAA audits are conducted on a regular basis, and keeping records of your best practices is important when being audited. Placing files into an automated system not only keeps them safe, but also makes sure that regular updates are being made to your processes.
In addition to its use cases, the benefits of RPA in the medical field are plentiful. A few examples include:
- Patient turnout: Thanks to automated scheduling systems which provide reminders, healthcare providers should see better turnout, and a reduction in "no-shows."
- Human error: When it comes to PHI, and other sensitive data in a healthcare setting, accuracy is paramount. While humans are often susceptible to error, an RPA system is calculated and less prone to deviating from a set process, therefore reducing the chance of critical errors when handling data.
- Provider/patient communications: Complementing a more streamlined experience overall, RPA and its ability to send auto-communications can ensure patients remain up to date. For example, auto-replies indicating the closure of a healthcare practice or reply-time standards can put a patient at ease.
RPA in Finance and Accounting
The manufacturing industry has been using Robotic Process Automation for years. You may be familiar with the giant arms and other tech on an assembly line. They use instructions built into an RPA system to assemble things like cars and other items bought across several sectors. Whether it has been a reluctance to try new things or a general feeling of uneasiness about using robots to process sensitive data, the uptake of RPA in office settings has been much slower.
Over the last decade, the finance and accounting industry has seen an increase in the volume of data that is received and processed. Sometimes, physical teams are unable to process these transactions in a reasonable amount of time. Enter RPA. Automation software has allowed for quicker response times when it comes to auditing, reporting, and compliance. It has also eliminated the repetitive work of human staff, allowing them to focus instead on tasks that more directly impact the organization's bottom line..
There is a seemingly endless amount of ways in which RPA in finance and accounting is used, but a few of the most common include:
- Process purchase orders with ease: Depending on the demands placed on an organization, purchase orders can pile up quickly. Sending them to the appropriate department for approval can be a lengthy process, especially if the entire process is manual. A software robot can scan a purchase order, obtain identifying information, and set up a request for approval.
- Create and process invoices: Trigger the creation of an invoice upon receipt of a sale. Have your RPA system save all invoices for future reference. Go deeper by categorizing invoices by department (depending on the structure of your organization).
- Watch for fraud: RPA has your back. Set up rules to watch for fraudulent behavior in real time. Rules can be created to monitor trends that might signify the onset of criminal activity. These rules can be set to send you a notification, so you can react before damage occurs.
- Prepare for tax season: Trouble with federal tax agencies can mean fines and even jail time for corporate officers. In the eyes of the government, human error does not pass as a great excuse when you are missing records that are important to a complete financial image. RPA can help you store and sort files important for yearly tax reporting, assisting you in cases where you may forget or not know what is supposed to be included. RPA can also help with calculations, ensuring that adjustments occur where necessary.
- Corporate expenses: Employees who travel for work often return with receipts to be expensed. Depending on the collection process, accounting teams can find this to be a frustrating experience. Paper receipts that are hard to read or expenses that do not fit the approved list of items are just some hurdles faced. An RPA system can collect and analyze receipts for their contents. This system can streamline the approval process and ensure the organization is not paying for more than they allow.
Need a visual? Check out the graphic below to see how RPA can impact finance and auditing procedures:
RPA on Cloud
With many organizations having already shifted from physical infrastructure to the cloud, RPA vendors have reinvented their programs to be compatible with this technology. Apart from being optimized for compatibility, there are no significant differences in the tasks that RPA can complete on the cloud in comparison to on-premise installations. It still learns and responds to the rules an organization sets forth, either way.
When RPA operates on the cloud, it takes advantage of newer architecture, added security, and other benefits that on-site infrastructure can not provide. It also means that an organization can avoid upfront costs like infrastructure and licensing. So, it is not that RPA operates differently on the cloud, though it may work more efficiently thanks to updated technology.