For some of us, the term “automation” can conjure up images of futuristic sci-fi characters or robots saying “beep-boop beep-boop.” Honestly, it can seem scary. But “automation” refers to any process that can proceed automatically, with little to no human involvement. In reality, automation is nothing to be afraid of.
We interact with automated processes every single day: every time you take advantage of the short self-checkout line in the grocery store, use spell-check to fix a typo, or receive a reminder from Amazon that it’s time to order more toothpaste, you’re benefiting from automation. And in the business world, automation has already arrived and made its mark in various industries, including sales, customer service, and our personal favorite: healthcare.
Within the healthcare industry, we know automation can be super powerful. It’s generating an extraordinary amount of value to organizations, allowing them to filter out time-consuming tasks and focus on more meaningful, face-to-face work (learn more about this in our blog, “The Reminder-Waitlist One-Two Punch”). As we enter the next decade of automation, we think it will be adopted by more systems sooner rather than later.
But we know automation has its fair share of skeptics. We often worry about giving up control to new technology (or to other people, for that matter!).
A good automated solution, however, can offer countless benefits, including improving accuracy, saving time, and increasing capacity. In order for automation to carry out its potential to save burnt-out providers massive amounts of time, deliver more advanced patient communications, and streamline and improve medical workflows, we first need to combat some myths. Consider us the MythBusters of healthcare — read on to learn what myths we’re busting today!
Myth No. 1: Automation means handing over control.
A common misperception of automated solutions is that they take over 100% of the work, leaving decision-makers with a lower level of control and visibility. Yes, automation does take over a significant portion of mundane work, but what some may not realize is that this can actually help increase visibility. When staff members don’t have to spend time with tedious tasks, it frees them up to do more meaningful and rewarding work, creating a win-win for everyone.
Take automated scheduling as one example. With a system that helps schedule patients automatically via text messaging — and can also fill empty slots when cancellations arise — staff members spend far less time playing phone tag with patients and laboring to keep schedules aligned. Phone tag is a fun name for an incredibly un-fun process of inefficient, back-and-forth calls with patients: in games of phone tag, nobody wins.
Even more importantly, smart automation solutions give staff across the organization constant visibility into an up-to-date and accurate view of the clinic’s capacity, calendars, and opportunities for filling any gaps. “Human lag time” plagues processes in every industry, and healthcare is no exception. Automation comes to the rescue by decreasing human lag time, providing the foundation for more accurate visibility, and ultimately empowering staff to get more patients to care.
Myth No. 2: Getting staff to buy in is nearly impossible.
It’s true that change can be a hard sell. When a practice still uses archaic systems because “they’ve always done it that way,” they may not welcome automation with open arms. But there is one thing automation offers that makes it hard for anyone to deny: results.
Take referrals, for instance, the foundation on which many specialty practices are built. Manually handling referrals often involves mountains of phone calls and faxes, making it easy to lose track of patients in the shuffle, let alone getting to all the patients in a timely manner. No one, and certainly not healthcare providers, wants to deal with this headache.
That’s where automation comes in. At Luma Health, we help providers automate manual outreach in order to ensure that every referred patient can access care. We make the entire process, from outreach to intake, seamless and mobile-first.
Our system of automated referral management eliminates manual processing. Practices can deal directly with referred patients via interactive, customizable text messages that guide them to automatically schedule appointments. These texts are immediately sent to referred patients, reducing the lag time and improving response rates. Then, referred patients receive real-time notifications when an appointment is confirmed, and providers have the ability to track their status along the way.
After implementing these automated outreach processes, the results become clear immediately: clinics with automatic referral management are able to treat 60% more referrals on average. We believe that these results speak for themselves: it’s tough for anyone, even the most avid of automation deniers, to argue with these cold hard facts!
Myth No. 3: Automation makes care delivery less personal.
Automated patient engagement strategies are certainly changing the way care is delivered. Now, providers can remain in regular contact with patients both before and after appointments and procedures, ensuring they’re on the right path along their care journey. This all happens automatically with custom text messages that require no additional work from physicians, creating the misperception that it makes care delivery somewhat impersonal. But in fact, the exact opposite is true.
With constant engagement, providers have a fuller picture of a patient’s situation well before they step foot in the office. The result? Providers can have more meaningful appointments and deliver treatments designed specifically for that individual patient. From the patient’s perspective, this makes receiving care much more personal, because they have been engaging with their provider at every step along the way, not just at a brief appointment every few weeks or months.
In the end, automation doesn’t replace personal engagement. Rather, it replaces zero engagement. It turns manual phone calls into automated texts, and it allows front office staff to spend time on high-risk patients and provide a more personal and pleasant experience in the office.
It’s time to embrace automation.
We can all agree that embracing technological shifts requires thoughtful and strategic implementation. Adopting new technologies isn’t something to be taken lightly, but we think automation has proven its worth, so it’s time to let automation do its thing. In the case of life-saving industries like healthcare, allowing myths to stand in the way of better care can cause serious harm.
We believe that our mission to debunk automation myths is incredibly important — that’s why we embarked on it! To continue innovating and modernizing within the healthcare industry, we’ve got to recognize and embrace the benefits that automation can bring to organizations. In the end, automated solutions will get patients to care faster, optimize the processes of healthcare clinics to drive revenue and, most importantly, deliver better and more personal care to patients — after all, isn’t that why we’re all here?