Hospitals and Healthcare facilities are looking to shift care from the most expensive inpatient settings to providing care in ways that reduce spending while improving patient services and outcomes. The objective is to use technology to cut operating costs while improving overall health care. Robotics in healthcare may be closer than you think. Indeed, in many respects the futuristic technology is already here.
Hospitals: Current Costs And Margins
For any business, the bottom line is key. Hospitals had positive operating margins ranging from 4.1 percent to 4.8 percent between 2011 and 2015. But 30 percent of hospitals also had negative operating margins during this period.
Another factor, commercial health insurance payments as a percentage of hospital and health systems’ total payments – are expected to drop from 37 percent to 33 percent by 2024. At the same time, the percentage of revenue from historically lower-margin Medicare is projected to increase from 35 percent to 40 percent of total payments.
And finally, labor costs will likely continue to rise due, in part, to patient-volume growth from an aging and more chronically ill population.
In addition, shrinking margins are also a concern at many skilled nursing facilities. A solution are the emerging technologies to help alleviate increasing margin pressures. Here are a few examples of how technology can help address key issues.
Hospitals: High Vacancy Rates
Contract labor is one of the highest variable costs for hospitals and health systems. In times of high vacancy, they often turn to high-cost solutions, such as overtime, agency staff, and travel nurses to bridge the gap. This can produce damaging effects on employee morale, patient experience and outcomes, and overall expenses.
A solution can be the use of robotic process automation (RPA) to streamline administrative work and tedious back-office tasks. For example, RPA might be appropriate when a task involves repetitive action, such as copying and pasting information from a spreadsheet into a software application. RPA can also free employees to focus on more important tasks, and reduce the error rate at the same time. RPA also can help shift jobs away from monotonous duties and toward those that require human interaction and oversight.
Hospitals: Administrative Costs
Administrative costs, especially administrative costs and billing disputes can be processed using Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning. These can help identify payment variance and remediate complex payment methodologies.
Hospitals: Improving Work Flow
Robotics and automation, for example, can help nurses complete routine tasks such as collecting blood samples. This technology cuts task time, reduces the risk of error or injury, and improves the patient experience. And as organizations progress from relying on manual tasks to using RPA and cognitive computing, a workforce of doers can become a workforce of reviewers. In the long run, organizations might be able to reduce their reliance on contract labor.
The use of futuristic technology to achieve economies of scale in hospital and skilled nursing homes on both the administrative and patients tracks will grow. Already, exponential advances in medical technology is facilitating and improving outcomes for complex surgeries and diagnoses.
Who knows, next time you visit a hospital or nursing home, you might be saying hello to Staff Members: Beep-Beep