March 01, 2023
Sleep Apnea Care Company Saves $40k in Annual Labor Costs with RPA
In partnership with a full-service sleep apnea diagnostic and treatment company, EnterBridge leveraged robotic process automation to sort 150,000 annual faxed referrals – 1 full-time equivalent has now been redeployed to higher-value work.
This group provides a full-service sleep apnea diagnostic and treatment experience–from home testing, diagnosis, and coaching, to supplying CPAPs, medicine, and additional critical supplies. They are currently small, with just over 100 staff members, but are rapidly growing and taking over the sleep apnea market.
Background70% of healthcare companies still rely on fax to exchange medical information. So, for a company that specializes in diagnosing and treating sleep apnea, receiving faxed medical records from referring doctors or dentists is critical to daily operations; so critical, in fact, that this specific sleep apnea group has a dedicated fax-handling team of 10 who must qualify upwards of 150,000 faxed referrals per year.
Before implementing robotic process automation, the fax referral processing team had a designated “fax wrangler.” This person’s full-time job was to sort through the incoming electronic faxes, determine which faxes required action, close out the ones that did not require action, and assign the remaining referrals to coworkers for processing. The fax wrangler could manually sort about 150 referrals per day.
One issue that arose for this sleep apnea company (with the backlog from manually sorting referrals) was the occasional urgent fax would not be addressed in a timely manner. An urgent referral represents a real person who desperately needs oxygen or other life-saving equipment. If this time-sensitive referral was not addressed quickly enough, the fax wrangler would have to get their supervisors involved to download the referral off their electronic fax database and email it to the appropriate department for expedited processing. Or, the referring doctor would have call in, getting staff members in the call center involved. The operations team described these incidents as “chaos,” resulting in 2-5 people taking time away from high-value work to address one urgent referral.
After implementing an automated fax-wrangling bot, the previous human fax-wrangler was reallocated to processing the faxes and qualifying referrals, resulting in a 12% increase in referral processing productivity.
The software bot runs on a repeating schedule throughout the workday. It starts by navigating to a web-based inbound fax database, where it filters the fax list to only include unassigned/uncompleted items. Since the faxes are scanned images, each document must first be run through an Optical Character Recognition (OCR)engine to extract text in a machine-readable format.
Based on the text found in the fax, the bot determines if it is one of several defined document types and then processes it accordingly. One very common authorization document needs no further processing and is simply closed by the bot without any human having to touch it. Other document types may trigger an urgent notification email or be reassigned for manual processing. At the end of the day, a status report is emailed to the members of the fax processing team that summarizes all faxes that were sorted that day
Each day, the bot can sort 570 faxes. This is a 280% increase from the manual fax-wrangler, resulting in 0 backlog. Of the 570 daily faxes, 25% are closed-out without the need for a human to ever see them. The remaining 75% are evenly divided and assigned to a member of the fax-processing team. As stated earlier, the previous human fax-wrangler was reallocated to higher-value work (processing the faxes), resulting in a 12% increase in fax-processing productivity.
In addition to the labor savings, this bot also keeps an eye out for certain rare urgent faxes and sends an alert email to interested parties if one is seen. This ensures that these important faxes are processed without the delay of waiting in someone’s work queue or having to divert supervisors’ attention to address them.
Automating this one process has saved the company at least $40,000 in yearly labor costs, increased team productivity by 12%, and saved the human fax-wrangler 8 hours a day of mundane work to be reallocated to higher-value, stimulating work.
After the success of this project, this specific sleep apnea group has decided to pursue more automation projects with EnterBridge, including automating several steps of the revenue cycle. They plan to automate the fax referral system even further by assigning a bot to qualify the referrals as well.
The operations team expresses enthusiasm for this possibility, as the 10 people on the fax processing team could be redeployed elsewhere, greatly increasing the company’s capacity for new business. Check back with us later to read more about the success of these automations and how the company plans to scale up due to the increase in revenue, time, and employee retention.