Healthcare supply chains have a significant number of repetitive tasks and manual integrations within the procure to pay, receive to replenish, and clinical integration processes. These processes can impact a wide range of roles.
Robotic Process Automation (RPA), or bots, is introducing exciting new opportunities to create value throughout the healthcare provider supply chain. The implementation of RPA involves automating tasks and integrating business processes across technologies and business functions.
RPA's benefits to healthcare supply chains:
RPA impacts the healthcare supply chain by enabling the next level of productivity optimization by redefining work and re-assigning employees to execute higher value added activities. Basic bots replace a number of human activities and can reduce cost and human errors while increasing compliance and efficiency. Organizations that implement RPA for certain activities realize significantly more savings over traditional off-shoring and business process outsourcing (BPO).
RPA should be used to bridge the gaps within and across applications (e.g., ERP, workflows) and not in place of such applications. Healthcare systems should leverage RPA in conjunction with holistic improvement initiatives to enable better results and ask “where should” RPA apply, not “can” RPA apply.
Bots have been more commonly implemented within the finance functions, but healthcare supply chains should assess end to end processes to identify opportunities.
Introducing RPA to a health system can be daunting, so it is best to start slow. PwC recommends starting with a proof of concept followed by a small pilot (5 - 7 bots). Once an organization has raised its RPA awareness and comfort, a broader deployment of RPA throughout supply chain and the enterprise will typically begin. Alignment with other strategic initiatives can provide a catalyst to generate interest and demand in RPA. By doing so, an organization can create greater value and produce more buy-in for the initiative.
The organizational framework and foundation for RPA must also be formed for a broader deployment of RPA across a healthcare system. These organizational frameworks and operating models establish a method to evaluate process maturity and perform activity analysis to identify the strongest candidates for means for automation. Organizations should evaluate holistic improvement including waste elimination, process optimization, organizational alignment as well as automation. Once opportunities are identified, organizations can prioritize and develop a roadmap to achieve benefits related to the value propositions in a business case for the investment.
RPA is a maturing process, but virtually untapped in the healthcare provider back office. The supply chain at most healthcare provider organizations has numerous opportunities for the deployment of RPA technology to extend the value of previous investments in technology. Identification and prioritization of these opportunities can help these organizations select the best RPA partner to achieve automation, value, and quality improvements.
Principal, PwC US
Director, PwC US