Electronic health records (EHRs) are now commonplace throughout medical facilities, as they provide a centralized database to create, access, store and share patient information. Key to EHR functionality is interoperability – easy, fast, and secure data exchange and communication among systems and applications, front and back office, administrative and clinical, across the healthcare enterprise.
Robotic process automation (RPA) can support that interoperability and meet industry and government standards. But not all automation platforms are created equal. So, what should healthcare organizations look for in an RPA solution?
Meeting the standards
The healthcare industry has developed methods not only to send information, but also to retrieve it securely from a variety of places in different formats. Interoperability has evolved from the complex batch processing of documents of the past to the latest HL7 Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) and Substitutable Medical Applications and Reusable Technologies (SMART) standards that leverage modern technologies.
FHIR is a set of industry-standard instructions designed to extract and classify data from an underlying healthcare system for external applications. Mandated by the 21st Century Cures Act, FHIR is just starting to be adopted by healthcare organizations, and it is the future direction of interoperability.
In addition to this mandated interoperability standard, data integrity and security must be maintained. There are rules sets to follow such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). There are also healthcare industry security standards such as HITRUST CSF that provide rigorous proof that software is compliant with the Security Rule of HIPAA.
For the highest level of data integrity and security, organizations should consider an RPA platform that supports HIPAA compliance as manifested by HITRUST CSF certification. Unfortunately, at this time, few RPA platform vendors have taken the time and effort to ensure that their solution not only enables compliance with HIPAA but has also gone through HITRUST certification. Currently, Automation Anywhere is the only major RPA platform vendor that has obtained this mission-critical certification for our platform and tools. For example, our process discovery solution is not only certified for HITRUST, SOC2, and other security standards, it also offers a Privacy-Enhanced Gateway (PEG) for process analysis designed to redact protected health information (PHI).
A platform that accelerates the process
Once data is secure, moving that data between systems can be complex. Historically, without direct access to the hospital or office EHR, interoperability had to be achieved by understanding the graphical user interface (GUI) or front end of the medical record system, which slowed down workflow. When automating a process such as transferring information from one system into another, end users and the RPA automation had to wait for the GUI to load on a local machine or to be run on a virtual machine such as Citrix or other virtual desktop infrastructure.
Computerized digital workers, just as their human counterparts, would have to log in to each system, navigate to the correct record, extract the relevant information, log out, log in to the next system, navigate to the right place, paste in the copied information – and on and on. In fact, even with RPA automation, this multi-step process is sometimes still unavoidable today. This older approach is slow, prone to more errors due to GUI changes and technical issues, and difficult to scale.
The arrivals of FHIR and other application programming interface (API)-based backend integrations have opened a new frontier of interoperability and connectivity between systems that is highly suitable for automation. For example, Automation Anywhere has many customers today who are using FHIR as well as ASC X12, DICOM, and many other backend integrations that are faster, more accurate, and easier to automate than traditional legacy front-end approaches.
Completing the checklist
Here are other considerations when choosing an RPA platform solution:
- Here today, changed tomorrow – The hospital system an organization employs today may not be the system of its future. An RPA vendor should be agnostic when it comes to infrastructure. Being able to automate among different systems, which have been cobbled together over the years with many moving parts, is complex. An RPA solution should be able to work with all interfaces and take advantage of whatever the future brings.
- experience – Does the RPA vendor have the healthcare experience to understand the care delivery model and its requirements and challenges? Does the company have a clinician technologist on staff or a customer advisory board? Is the vendor able to provide on-premises, cloud-based, and hybrid solutions in different healthcare environments?
Having dedicated healthcare resources such as a physician and medical coder on staff helps ensure that an RPA vendor has the knowledge to offer a solution that best fits an organization’s needs, including building automations that adhere to federal, state, and local regulations. In addition, as many healthcare organizations are making plans to transition to cloud, it’s important to choose an RPA vendor that understands how to construct automations that maintain security and operational continuity during that migration as well as beyond.