Scaling and maintaining a long-term automation strategy is no small feat. Organizations often face hidden pitfalls that prevent their automation initiatives from moving past the pilot phase, whether it be skeptical leadership, poor governance, a piecemeal strategy, or privacy and financial concerns. Read on below for our five key insights on how to move your automation strategy from concept to reality.
1. Ditch random point solutions and instead embed automation initiatives within long-term organizational strategy.
The best automation strategies will be personalized to each organization's needs and broader strategy. Some health systems begin their journey into automation with pre-formulated lists of processes with automation potential.
However, scattered investments for point solutions across a system can lead to piecemeal ROI. This type of non-personalized strategy makes it possible to end up automating "bad" or inefficient workflows.
Ultimately, this will drive up costs and lead to ineffective systems. Instead, organizations should think through an ROI-driven system strategy that incorporates automation as part of a long-term solution. They can do this by staggering their deployments and monitoring and maintaining processes to avoid data mismatches and bot breakdowns.
2. Encourage skeptics with smaller, early wins.
Automation requires stakeholder buy-in across an organization. For many staff members, a narrow perspective on what automation entails makes them reluctant to adopt new processes, for fear of an unaccountable, dictatorial bot system in the driver's seat. Employees might fear the loss of normal routine or autonomy when they have to work alongside automation.
To win over skeptics, Froedtert Health created an early pilot on automating physician queries to clearly demonstrate the technology. This allowed those unfamiliar with automation to see how the bots work, feel more comfortable about the process, and feel included in its launch.
3. Use top-performing FTEs to identify automation pain points and iterate on old processes.
Organizations can bring employees' voices to the table as an additional way to continually optimize automation programs. To identify areas of that would benefit most from automation, Moffitt Cancer Center holds regular "think tank" events. Here, they identify top performing revenue cycle FTEs and collaborate with them to identify pain points in their day-to-day tasks.
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These insights are used to pinpoint new automation targets, so that FTEs are performing top-of-license and not bogged down with repetitive, mind-numbing tasks. This strategy can help other health care organizations regularly shape their own automation pipelines.
4. Even after implementation, be prepared for a human touch.
Few automation solutions completely eradicate human involvement in the process. Often, codes may break or need updating to account for new data or workflows. To account for this, healthcare navigation platform Buoy Health walked a fine line between automating processes for enhanced efficiency and implementing necessary human intervention.
In the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic, due to the relative newness of data around the disease, they found that their standard set of intake questions in their regular AI path wasn't clear enough. The company pivoted to include a more manual processes in conjunction with their AI efforts to provide the best care possible during a great time of need.
5. Acknowledge that there may be a trade-off between strong governance and the speed of innovation.
A strong automation strategy necessitates system-led governance, so that automation is viewed and treated as a strategic business asset, rather than an individual pet project. Though important, governance structures and audits often slow down the speed of innovation and implementation.
The dramatic onset of the Covid-19 pandemic forced organizations to align the constraints of governance protocols with the rapid pace of their technology deployments. This resulted in a new smoothness in adoption and implementation never seen before.
As health care organizations enter a peri- and post-Covid world, this experience has shed light on the importance of synergy between their technology innovations and governance checkpoints in place. For automation, this may mean a new governance strategy, or staggering deployments in the pipeline to dilute immediate risks.