Blog & Insights
Bring on the Microbots: Embracing Automation That Makes Sense
Embracing automation means embracing bots. That might be scary for some, as a stigma exists around bots. This fear leads many organizations to keep the process of building and managing bots in-house. But that might not be the best strategy.
Partnering with a vendor that takes advantage of microbots in its solutions might be a better option.
RCM, RPA, and bots
Many revenue cycle management (RCM) departments have already begun to adopt robotic process automation (RPA) to help with simple, mundane tasks. RPA uses bots to emulate and integrate the actions of a human interacting within digital systems to execute a business process. The use of RPA has quickly proliferated throughout RCM organizations. These organizations have embraced its value and have begun configuring it to handle more than just simple, humanized tasks.
What is a microbot?
RPA uses robots (bots) to emulate the actions of a human and more. Typically, these bots are built with monolithic code – a string of code that drives a process from start to finish. An alternative approach is to leverage microbots – bots that handle smaller parts of a larger process.
For example, if you were creating bots that execute payroll processing, you could build a bot that conducts the full process from start to finish. Or you could create smaller bots that break the process up into its many parts. One bot can log into the payroll system. Another bot can access the spreadsheet containing employee data. And individual bots can manage each of the remaining steps of the process.
Now imagine that the path to your spreadsheet has changed. If you built the bot from start to finish with monolithic code, it is difficult – and incredibly time-consuming – to find where the process is broken. With microbots, only the broken piece needs to be modified with a smaller code, resulting in faster resolution.
And, as microbots are also pre-built blocks, they make writing and deploying new custom automation much faster.
Microbots can also help with scalability and flexibility with workflows. A workflow is basically a series of decisions and actions. And microbots can automate these decisions and actions, helping accelerate automation strategy and making it easy to maintain.
Those are the breaks
Some organizations are reluctant to use bots. This is due, in part, to the common perception that bots break easily, causing the software to glitch. Bots break depending on several factors, such as the type, purpose, quality, and security of the bot, as well as the environment and conditions in which it operates. Some of those factors include:
- Poorly designed, coded, or tested: They may contain bugs, errors, or vulnerabilities that cause them to malfunction, crash, or behave unpredictably. For example, a chatbot that uses natural language processing may fail to understand or respond to user queries that are ambiguous, complex, or out of context.
- Attacked, hacked, or compromised: A bot that provides customer service or information may be spammed, spoofed, or manipulated by malicious actors, such as cybercriminals, hackers, or rival bot operators who want to exploit, abuse, or sabotage the bot.
- External factors: Network issues, hardware failures, software updates, or user feedback can cause bots to break. For example, a bot that relies on internet connectivity may experience delays, interruptions, or losses of data if the network is slow, congested, or unstable.
When building RPA bots, some approaches increase the likelihood of breakdown and the cost of maintenance. This can happen when internal IT teams handle bot building on their own, as most RCM organizations don’t have a bot expert on staff. This is why it is often advisable to partner with a vendor that has more experience with RPA. A vendor can build RPA bots to be as robust as possible as they provide the maintenance and operations.
Vendors can also build bots with a component-based architecture so actions that are shared across different processes and even different clients are performed by common microbots. For example, different providers may need to log into a payor website or aggregator to perform multiple different tasks. They may need to look up a claim, appeal a denial, submit a prior authorization request, upload documents, and more.
These providers must log into the same website and use the same steps. If each individual provider builds their own bots, thousands of bots will be accessing the same sites, performing similar actions. However, if the website changes the login steps, all these bots will crash. This will require thousands of engineers to log into multiple bots and sift through huge code sets to find and fix the problem so the bots can keep running.
A component-based architecture allows vendors to have their clients share microbots, which can alert engineers directly if the bot can’t complete its small discrete function. The vendor receives notification directly from the bots, so the engineer can go directly to the correct component, look through a much shorter code set, and fix the problem. Then the fix can be rolled out to all clients that use the shared component. This gets all the bots back up and running quickly and at a much lower cost.
In this way, clients will never need to open a ticket for a bot. The vendor can maintain and fix them before anyone is even aware there is a problem.
Help has arrived
RCM organizations will continue to adopt automation to increase revenue and efficiency. But they will also do this to improve the patient experience. As such, the decision to build and manage any new automation tools or rely on a vendor will be critical. For many, giving control to others is a frightening proposition. However, when it comes to technology, it just might be the right decision.
Want to learn more about automation in healthcare? Download this white paper!