November 9, 2021

Robotic Process Automation: What You Need to Know

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is the efficient adaptation of software robots (bots) to perform unpopular, repetitious, mundane tasks quickly. Due to the labor disruption created by the Covid-19 pandemic, RPA has recently boomed in popularity as it helps automate essential back-office tasks, reduce if not eliminate keystroke errors, and free resources up to focus on more critical tasks. As a result, the global RPA market, valued at $1.4 billion in 20191, is projected to jump to $5 billion by 20242 and $11 billion by 2027.3

RPA promises to transform the back offices of enterprises the way robotics transformed the assembly floors of the automotive manufacturing industry in the 1990s. The industry faced a major quality control problem due to mistakes made by assembly line workers. Gradually, robots were introduced to perform the most mundane, repetitious assembly line jobs and the quality of manufactured cars improved significantly. In the case of RPA, this transformation will replace repetitive clerical operations – such as opening files, copying and pasting text, transferring data from one system to another, and data entry – with seamless automation. This results in a high-volume, virtually error-free environment with a quicker turn-around time, as bots can work non-stop, 24 hours a day if desired.

How Does it Work?

RPA bots are programmed to interact with underlying systems that range from the latest cloud-based applications to legacy mainframes. Many companies with legacy systems (especially those lacking API options) use RPA to automate their workflows. Initially, RPA emerged as the coupling of business process automation (BPA) and screen scraper applications. Today, screen scraping techniques are still used, but the integration approach is considered more accurate. RPA bots require programming to function, but the level of programming is considered relatively simple.

Applications of RPA

RPA bots are adept at automating common back-office processes used by most organizations – such as human resources (new employee onboarding), accounts payable, and expense management. RPA can automate other business processes including general application processing, quote-to-cash (QTC) functions, procure-to-pay (P2P) functions, data entry and migration, and timely generation and distribution of reports. Typical automated document-based processing includes invoices, receipts, contracts, order forms, and prescriptions.

Benefits of RPA

The successful implementation of RPA can yield numerous positive results. Backlogs are eliminated due to the speed and efficiency in which automatic tasks are executed. Since bots are completely focused on the task at hand, human error is virtually removed from the equation – causing data quality and accuracy rates to soar. At the same time, the chance of violating compliance regulations dramatically drops. Since bots leave behind digital records of all their activities, this helps simplify any audits that may come up. With the increased speed and accuracy of data entry, more timely, accurate customer information is available, resulting in happier customers. Employees, who formerly labored over the mundane tasks being handled by bots, are now free to perform more challenging strategic work. And finally, the cost savings. According to a recent CAQH study, in the healthcare industry alone, $13.3 billion could be saved if only eight administrative tasks in the revenue cycle were no longer manually performed.[4]

Healthcare Opportunities

The healthcare industry has a lot to gain from the successful deployment of RPAs. Today’s healthcare systems are hamstrung by seemingly endless processes, forms, documentation, paperwork, insurance, and strict regulations regarding the handling of sensitive patient data. As a result, the number of manual processes required is much higher than in other industries —  notoriously slowing processes and higher operational costs. Any improvement in efficiency would no doubt lead to better, less costly healthcare delivery. The following are some key areas where the deployment of RPA bots would be beneficial:

  • Data Entry and Migration – In addition to improving the speed and accuracy of data entry, RPA bots can also be programmed to migrate data from legacy systems to modern systems . Additional bots can be set up as needed to pull data from legacy systems to support medical research projects. With bots handling the entry and recall of data, the accidental viewing of confidential patient information by data entry personnel becomes less of an issue.
  • Patients Scheduling Themselves – RPA interfaces, set up in a healthcare system, could enable patients to schedule their own appointments. Scheduling bots would allow patients to browse through available appointment dates and select the time that works best for them. Additional bots can send out reminder messages as a patient’s appointment time gets closer. Combined, this functionality would empower individuals by enabling them to select the most convenient appointment times, while reminders would help cut back on the number of missed appointments.
  • Claims Management – The process of Claims Management can be exhausting – especially since an estimated 80% of claims are originally submitted with at least one error.[5] The manual input, evaluation, classification, and processing of documentation and data involving a patient visit is very time consuming. RPA bots can dramatically reduce the time required to process these claims, and rules-based procedures can virtually remove human error from the equation.
  • Regulatory Compliance – All RPA bots maintain logs that automatically track each step performed in the process. This ensures that the healthcare provider can easily comply with external system audit requests.
  • Improved Patient Experience – The streamlining of back-office tasks via RPA bots will result in quicker updates to patient records. This will ensure that customer service agents can respond to inquiries with the most up-to-date information, providing a higher standard of service.

All of these RPA applications – in addition to saving time and money – ultimately free-up caregivers, enabling them to spend more time with patients, physicians, and performing other more challenging tasks. Therefore, RPA should also help lower employee turnover rates (fueled by job frustration) and lead to better patient outcomes.

Where Else Does RPA Work?

RPA bots have proven to be most useful in the following industries and functions:

  • Life Sciences – bots can accelerate the delivery of new drugs, streamline manufacturing operations, enhance supply chain management, and improve patient interaction (i.e., by answering questions and providing updates).
  • Manufacturing – business processes for administration, human resources, and accounts can be automated by RPA bots. They can also streamline supply chain processes, inventory management, order processing, and regulatory compliance.
  • IT – security can be tightened when RPA bots are set to change the passwords of sensitive instruments autonomously.
  • Other Applications – RPAs also have been useful in banking, insurance, accounting, retail, and telecom industries.

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the application of simulated human intelligence to machines. Some RPAs have been successfully coupled with AI applications. These hybrid automation tag-teams can learn through experience and solve basic problems without human intervention – and then perform whatever action is called for.

What You Need to Know

Getting RPA right requires a lot of careful thought, planning, and hands-on experience. For instance, before getting started, examine the processes that are being automated. Can they be made more streamlined and efficient?  Will these processes, as they are, correspond to the logic that drives an RPA?  Keep in mind that not all processes can be – or should be – replicated by RPA. Open up a line of communication with your knowledge workers to let them know the kind of change that is coming, how it will affect them, and the benefits that it will bring. Encourage feedback and suggestions – and act on them! Employee buy-in plays a large role in the eventual success or failure of any project. And reach out to an RPA expert, like Oxford, to help successfully guide you through the adoption of this new important technology.

[2] Dilmegani, Cem (2021, October 11). RPA in Healthcare: Benefits, use cases & case studies. AIMultiple. Retrieved November 2, 2021, from

[3] Dilmegani, Cem (2021, October 6). RPA 101: The Ultimate Guide to Robotic Process Automation. AIMultiple. Retrieved November 2, 2021, from

[4] Dilmegani, Cem (2021, October 11). RPA in Healthcare: Benefits, use cases & case studies. AIMultiple. Retrieved November 2, 2021, from

[5] Improving medical claims management in your RCM. Aquina. (2020, November 6). Retrieved November 2, 2021, from

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