What Is Robotic Process Automation?
Robotic Process Automation, or RPA, describes a form of artificial intelligence (AI) technology that can be used to carry out repeated tasks automatically. This rule-based software can process large quantities of structured data efficiently and without errors. It replicates the cursor moves, button clicks and category based decision making that a person would previously have completed manually on the computer to perform tasks. Examples include copying and pasting data, responding to simple emails or chatbot queries, filing documents in the appropriate folder, or checking information against pre-set parameters before processing it. Organisations can run with greater efficiency while being able to use humans in roles that require creativity, freeing us from tasks that fail to make use of our potential.
RPA can also be integrated with machine learning technology to perform machine perception tasks. This allows steps such as image recognition to be included in an RPA workflow.
What can Robotic Process Automation do?
Most of us interact with RPA software without even realising we’re doing so, with its forms becoming more common as its processes become more sophisticated. If you’ve ever used an online support chat, you’ve likely spoken to a chatbot programmed to assess and identify your issues. The chatbot can refer you to relevant help pages, or send your concerns onto a human support assistant.
Clerical work is one area where most of us will see the most significant benefits. RPA can slice down the time needed to respond to emails, send invoices, check relevant calendars to book a meeting and much more… You can find RPA in order processing from online stores, and it can be used to detect fraudulent activity online. It is also perfect for transferring data between systems in a timescale never possible without automation. Some examples of back office application:
- Extract data and create reports
- Copy, paste and move data
- Prepare and deliver invoices
- Reconcile purchase orders with delivery notes
- Process information from multiple computer systems e.g. reconcile data between the CRM and accounting systems
- Process information from structured documents
- Fill out forms
- Open emails and process attachments
- Perform calculations
Being able to outsource administrative tasks and other repetitious work means organisations can reap financial benefits alongside strides forward in cultural wellbeing. Employees are not only freed from menial tasks that hold them back, but also have the time and headspace to work with greater ingenuity.
Attended vs. Unattended RPA Bots
RPA Bots can be categorised as attended or unattended. Attended RPA bots complete one component of a more extensive process, working alongside a human worker. One example of an attended RPA bot is a computer automatically pulling a customer’s data up when they ring a call centre. This allows the phone operator to quickly and easily offer personalised service and advice. Organisations use attended RPA bots when the end-to-end process cannot be automated, or where human interaction adds value.
An unattended RPA bot operates independently to perform batch operations without requiring human intervention. The bot will be triggered by a particular action to activate and complete the necessary tasks. One example of this may be processing and distributing invoices. On the final day of the month, the bot would access the finance system and run through the steps previously followed by the accounts department to send out the required monthly invoices. Another example may be a doctor issuing a script. The bot can check the prescription is valid, confirm that the health professional is authorised to prescribe the listed medication, identify the prescriber code, and check whether there is a valid prescription charge exemption.
Robotic Process Automation in Healthcare
Ask any healthcare professional, at any level, about the administrative work needed within the sector and they’ll attest to the volume and complexity they are faced with throughout their working week. Patients’ records are vital to treatment and to assessing, logging, and analysing patients’ needs, all of which necessitates a huge amount of time and resources. Above all other industries, healthcare is a field where accuracy is crucial, and human error can have the most serious consequences.
Add in the stress that keeping up to date with medical admin creates, and it is easy to see why automation would significantly benefit patients and professionals alike. It is also clear that healthier working dynamics will filter down to happier healthcare experiences too. Ensuring that systems communicate more easily, that patient information is stored more effectively, and that employees face less friction throughout their days are just some of the exciting ways RPA can revolutionise healthcare for us all.