Software automation accelerates processes and makes them more cost-effective, accurate, scalable, and measurable. But it also lets organizations coordinate and manage a collection of disparate systems according to business rules. These benefits offer enough value that automation is becoming an indispensable part of the enterprise toolkit.
A 2019 Deloitte survey of 523 executives across industries found that 58% of organizations were already using Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and artificial intelligence (AI) combined. The top four objectives of this intelligent automation: increased productivity, cost savings, accuracy, and customer experience. How will this trend affect the healthcare job market?
According to a 2019 Brookings Institution report, automation and AI will impact all professions, each to a different degree. At highest risk of automation are tasks that are tedious, repetitive, rule-based, and predictable, such as document processing, data entry, and administrative office tasks.
In the healthcare industry, examples include scheduling appointments, physician order entry, checking for allergies, ordering electronic prescriptions, validating a spreadsheet’s entries against data on a website, and manually transferring data from one system to another. Healthcare office workers tend to hate these tasks, which typically require very little decision-making, judgment, or creativity.
In contrast, the lowest-risk jobs are ironically those at both ends of the wage spectrum: well-paid complex decision-making positions requiring higher education (such as research scientists, engineers, and business executives) and low-paying personal care and domestic services that involve nonroutine tasks or require interpersonal skills (such as home health aides and housekeepers).
Economists say we’re now in the midst of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, or Industry 4.0, a unique disruption that forces us to ask for the first time what it truly means to be human.
Industry 4.0 synergizes global online and physical systems, data, AI, and smart technologies with the potential to improve the quality of life across the world, and the change is accelerating. “The changes are so profound that, from the perspective of human history, there has never been a time of greater promise or potential peril,” says Professor Klaus Schwab, head of the World Economic Forum.
For many healthcare workers, the topmost concern isn’t whether automation can enhance their job but whether it will replace their job. There’s clearly the risk of a machine taking over if it can do the same task better and more cost-effectively. However, you have a choice: Treat the bot as a threat or as a powerful digital assistant.
Like other software tools of the past (Excel or Salesforce, for example), RPA removes the part of your job you dislike and allows you to be more productive in meaningful tasks. The healthcare employer and employee ultimately face the same question: How do we evolve and increase an employee’s value to the company if we eliminate the low-value work he or she does?
To understand how humans add value, it’s important to look at the talents human employees have that machines are unable to mimic. Here’s a list of uniquely human qualities that could indicate the kinds of tasks that are difficult to automate:
The importance of these human skills can clearly be seen in healthcare. More than 90% of a primary care physician’s practice consists of common conditions such as a sore throat or back pain, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for which standards of treatment have been established. These visits could be computer-assisted or even partly automated.
However, a diagnostic puzzle crops up occasionally that requires additional work. “Practicing at the top of your license” is when a physician must really tap his or her clinical expertise and experience and pursue detective work that takes thought, effort, and time.
Automation in healthcare promises to provide more of those fulfilling opportunities by eliminating low-value work from day-to-day tasks.