Pandemic-Induced Diamonds? Digital Workers don’t catch COVID

Related Topics: Digital Strategy, Healthcare, Intelligent Innovation

by Dr. Rob Nelson –

Accelerating Digital Transformation and Driving to a“Zero Back Office” in Healthcare & Life Sciences

Diamonds are created under pressure and stress. The crown jewel in your engagement ring, necklace, or earrings probably has indestructible stones that will never become obsolete. We have also discussed how a firm can become invincible by using the Customer xDNA framework and platform.

In the Healthcare and life sciences sector, the stress of a global pandemic has driven even the most progressive healthcare providers and life sciences firms to become digital diamonds – or at least make good progress towards that aim. While a digital journey isn’t perhaps as finite as diamond creation is, consider that pressure process and how the pandemic plays a dual role of an accelerator of transformation and an amplifier of disruptive forces1. And, we all recognize we cannot go back to the way things were before. Pandemics and other health crises remain at the top of the list of concerns of CEOs nationwide2.

Healthcare Organizations (HCOs) are transitioning from merely surviving and sustaining core operations when a pandemic emerged to force the entire industry to drive rapid innovations that saved lives and lessened the pandemic’s impact (pandemic-induced-digital acceleration). The skies are clearing as the population gets vaccinated, and businesses and communities are re-opening. Yet, the risk remains of new diseases, variants that can continue to cause stress and uncertainty in all aspects of our lives and economy.

Over the past year, the healthcare sector has experienced broad, breathtaking change – we have referred to as “Healthcare Unchained.” New, innovative business models, partnerships, and moving more quickly than ever have taken root and created momentum. Maintaining the innovation momentum will be critical to face new challenges and create “invincible” healthcare organizations.

Not long ago, I wrote about the top trends in Healthcare for 2021. My blog highlighted our current topic of Intelligent Automation as a key trend, opportunity, and investment area. Also, a recent survey highlighted the various sectors of the healthcare industry (pharmaceutical, health and med-tech, health systems, and payers), highlighting the dramatic nature of change. A whopping 90 percent believe that what has happened with the pandemic will disrupt and forever change how they operate and create, communicate, and deliver value through new capabilities, processes, services, and overall business models. We agree, and that is what we see across the nation and sectors of Healthcare we work in (Provider, Payer, Life Sciences, Med, and Health Tech).

Enter Intelligent Automation and Digital Workforce

Let’s take a focus on one particular area: Automation. Today, across industries, employees spend around 10–20% of their time on mundane, repetitive tasks that can be easily automated4. With Robotic Process Automation (RPA), organizations can offload these cumbersome tasks to their Digital Workforce, giving human workers more time for productivity and innovation. According to Forbes, Automation can save employees up to six to nine weeks of effort each year, saving businesses four million dollars annually. This recovered time can be reinvested into career development and personal growth opportunities, making work more human. Gartner predicts that by 2020, 40% of large enterprises will have adopted Robotic Process Automation (RPA), up from less than 10% today. The evidence is overwhelmingly clear. To be competitive today–and tomorrow–you must automate.

Industry research by McKinsey indicates, 60% of occupations have at least 30% (5,6) of activities that could be automated, using currently available technologies including RPA, cognitive automation capabilities, intelligent analytics, and access to pre-built bots as well as custom-built bots and hyper-automation.

Other research suggests that only 3% of today’s large enterprises have more than 50 bots in production3. And this is across all industries—high-and low-tech alike. Automation can help improve your productivity, lower costs, and improve customer satisfaction—all while conforming to mandated compliance laws. As you develop your action plan to achieve your digital ambitions, you may have come across the concept of “ZBO,” or zero back office. If you take a page from the Insurance Industry, there is a tremendous focus on creating the “Zero Back Office.” This concept applies to the Healthcare Sector – and any HCO trying to proactively design a fantastic customer/patient experience along with the patient or customer journey.

It is still perplexing that at a leading healthcare system (I won’t name it because I do love them), the appointment always begins with printing a paper with a few lines to give the clinical team – yes, printed – why? Zero back office requires the implementation of intelligent automation and hyper-automation technologies that minimize manual involvement in tasks that can be run with digital bots and workers.

Why are those tasks still manual after all? Here are three reasons we often see:

  • Lack of focused investment: the HCO has not yet invested in preparing for or implementing Automation.
  • The HCO relies heavily on the application of institutional knowledge that experienced staff to conduct the process.
  • The HCO has not yet tamed the challenges of overcoming siloed operations that need to become interdependent and across the organization and touchpoints. There may be many manual “swivel chair” requirements.

Intelligent Automation and becoming as close to “ZBO” as possible help overcome these potential hurdles so that you can genuinely optimize the way technology supports and optimizes your business performance. This includes helping shed or work around the barriers of legacy systems laden with technical debt and manual processes that render them unable to compete against industry disruptors like a pandemic.

So, back to the key themes and benefits for the Healthcare Provider:

Digital acceleration: Table stakes for Healthcare Organizations

We all know that Healthcare has been behind in digital adoption, but the pandemic has imposed a massive jolt of urgency to embrace new tools, technologies, and business and operating models. Providers rapidly scaled offerings and saw exponential increases (50 to 175 times) in the number of patients via telehealth compared to pre-pandemic levels.  Providers have increased their focus and priority on engagement with patients and communities. Pharmaceutical and MedTech companies have expanded their investments in digitally-enabled clinical trials and customer-engagement models and seek to take advantage of capabilities and outcomes discussed below.

Workplace of the future. The future is now.

The pandemic has shown a light on the extent to which Healthcare can be delivered remotely. Sure, not all Healthcare can be delivered remotely. However, many visits we would not have held remotely can be. This includes more virtual care, remote patient monitoring, and virtual collaboration. I saved myself a trip to the urgent care clinic for a physical contusion because the physician could look at my leg via my iPhone. This virtual operating model creates strategic agility, flexibility and supports talent diversity. You can attract anyone, anywhere, to your team.  Like leadership in other industries, healthcare leaders are re-thinking workplace norms, policies, and practices, including reassessing work conditions, work-at-home policies, and extending greater flexibility to employees. Add to this the ability to remove mundane, repetitive tasks from their plate to focus on what they do best.

Healthcare organizations know that they need to transform their operations—and their culture and mindsets. We know that crises spawn innovation out of necessity and can help growth in the recovery – or accelerate already prioritized digital transformation. Leaders much approach this transformation and innovation with commitment and assure strong execution of the innovative ideas and opportunities. Here are a few options for provider and life sciences organizations.

PROVIDER OPPORTUNITIES

It is no news that Healthcare leaders are concerned with reducing costs, improving patient care, and maintaining customer privacy. However, the drive for adaptability, virtual care, and remote medicine has exploded, and the need for technologies supports a better engagement, process, and social experience. The urgent demand for re-imagined customer experience (as highlighted in our recent e-book, blogs, and vlogs on CxDNA) is now a top priority for Healthcare and life sciences, and other industries.

Automation can help in all of these challenges and initiatives.  Intelligent Automation is a fundamental part of the digital healthcare environment. Software bots pooled together become digital workers and can be trained to do many repetitive tasks and do them quickly and accurately 24×7. They don’t have vacation or sick days. Thus, they free up our precious healthcare workers to focus more on delivering the best possible patient care – amid a global healthcare worker shortage.

Benefits include:

  • Lower Costs: RPA empowers healthcare workers by taking over the repetitive, rote work for them. This makes them more productive and, as a result, more cost-effective. • Improve Patient Engagement: RPA can improve the patient’s experience by enabling call center employees, assisting with the scheduling process, follow-up, and virtually every area of patient care.
  • Enable Compliance: bots can be configured with features, such as role-based access controls (RBAC) and audit trail logging to meet certain aspects of Compliance and regulatory requirements.
  • Improve Access and Use of Healthcare Data: an intelligent bot provides a 360-degree view of patient information with purpose-built AI capabilities designed to extract unstructured patient data from disparate sources.
  • Improve Patient Experience: Intelligent Automation is used successfully and streamlines a patient experience, and enables engagement beyond “clinic hours.

LIFE SCIENCES OPPORTUNITIES

Life Sciences encompass companies in the fields of biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, biomedical, and other technologies. These can benefit from RPA for streamlining processes, speeding up product development, and improving patient services. A digital workforce automates repetitive processes and frees up the valuable time of researchers and process owners. Humans and bots work side-by-side to achieve better patient outcomes through enhanced productivity and improved quality, all while maintaining cost.

Key business and IT use case drivers include:

  • Understand the customer better
  • Improve products and services
  • Improve management of existing data
  • Create revenue systems
  • Monetize existing data
  • Leaner operation: Improve internal efficiencies
  • Find and exploit new data sources
  • Better management of governance, risk & Compliance
  • Data governance
  • Data visualization and democratization
  • Knowledge and content management and portals
  • Improve the detection and prevention of fraud

Technology Drivers for Life Sciences include:

  • Cloud/Big Data
  • Machine Learning/AI
  • Cognitive computing
  • Conversational AI
  • Natural Language processing
  • RPA – Intelligent Automation

For Life Sciences, Med Tech and Health Tech companies, Automation – and a digital workforce can be especially valuable in achieving winning outcomes in the areas of:

  • Improving Pharmacovigilance: RPA increases the accuracy of data captured and improves the safety and effectiveness of products.
  • Improving Compliance: RPA helps maintain Compliance by automating and standardizing regulatory processes to mitigate compliance risk.
  • Effective Patient Engagement: RPA automation improves many aspects of population health by enhancing patient engagement with real-time data access from diverse data sources.

No matter what sector of Healthcare an organization is in, Intelligent Automation is a key theme and should be a central theme in any digital transformation roadmap and strategic operating plan.  We hear time and time again how firms are behind. But, the Diamonds are in the making. The pressure is on. The will is there. We are here to help with your digital ambitions from A to Z, and focusing on ZBO and Intelligent Automation is a solid bet and ROI driver.

RCG Global Services Healthcare and Life Sciences team is here to help

Healthcare providers utilize and expand telehealth services, push for value-based care, and develop a personalized service that delivers a frictionless customer-centric experience.

Life Sciences Organizations to create a cloud-based integrated digital ecosystem that improves operational efficiency, lowers cost, increases productivity and business agility.

Health/Med-Tech Organizations to draw a roadmap that incorporates easily adaptable technology giving value to your technology and working together to deliver a frictionless customer-centric experience ultimately.

Payer Organizations to create financial stability with a global budget revenue plan,  promote value-based care, and process improvements alongside care management to improve quality of care and reduce costs.

All of this includes the achievement of their digital ambitions and intelligent Automation and Customer Experience goals.

The diamonds of the intelligent digital workplace have an automated Digital Workforce. It is a blend of digital bots that automate repetitive tasks, AI-powered bots that can make real-time decisions, and predictive analytics to help workforce management make intelligent decisions—all working in harmony with the human workforce. Automation enables today’s HCO workforce with superhuman powers, multiplying their productivity, accuracy, and cost-efficiency by orders of magnitude while significantly improving and enabling customer engagement initiatives and digital transformation.

This is a landmark year in the adventure into the new healthcare frontier of “healthcare unchained.” It’s time for the digital diamonds in the rough to shine. I’d love to hear your thoughts! Send a note to Rob.Nelson@rcggs.com

References

1, 2 Leadership Agenda to Take On Tomorrow. Strategy & Business, Summer 2021. Pp 51-61 Laura Geller, Spencer Herbst

3 White Paper: Robots are Ready, Deloitte

4 Blog: How Automation Could Save Your Business $4 Million Annually, Forbes, Jeff Wald Aug 3, 2017

5 Blog: Automation at scale: The benefits for payers, Mckinsey July 2019; Yuri Goryunov, Ralf Plattfaut, Mathis Friesdorf, Greg Gilbert, and Florian Niedermann, James Manyika et al.,

6 Study: A future work: Automation, employment, and productivity, McKinsey Global Institute report, January 2017.

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