Overcoming Automation Anxiety

  • July 16, 2021
Anxious woman at computer

Most health plans understand that automating tasks can help them save time and money. However, they may be hesitant to adopt intelligent automation if they are experiencing anxiety about making the shift. If they are feeling fearful, their fears probably lie in one or more of the following areas:

  • Security and safety of systems and data
  • Perceived impact on employee job security
  • Achieving transparency with digital employees or “bots”
  • Ensuring that their initial investment will live up to IT industry hype

It is important for health plans to understand that the same security measures that apply to the human workforce apply to bots, which are also known variously as “automations,” “digital agents,” and “digital workers.” Some health plans worry that when they permit an IT provider like NTT DATA to build their bots, they will lose control over where their data resides. They also wonder how their systems will be accessed. NTT DATA assures our health plan clients that their bots will work in the client’s environments on their premises; they will not be moved offshore.

The health plan must remember this as we build the roadmap for intelligent automation. It must work with its security team to ensure that user credentials for automation are in place; these automations, or bots, need them just as human workers do. Arranging for non-human access often requires a shift in mindset.

There is a popular misconception that when automation arrives, people disappear, when in fact, intelligent automation can empower existing human workers to do their work better. For example, a member services agent can be paired with a virtual cognitive agent to help the human worker provide better service to members. The virtual agent can listen and do behind-the-scenes research, supporting its human counterpart with relevant member information in real-time, as well as suggesting next steps. It can even automate the transcription of the call. Thus, the member services agent becomes better supported than ever, which positively impacts service delivery and happier members.

Additionally, robotic process automation provides man/machine, intelligent automation in the front, middle and back offices, enabling the plan’s business to grow organically and increase revenue. For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, plans have seen a massive expansion of Medicaid claims, and it has emerged as a new line of business for them. With intelligent automation, they can eliminate human labor and allocate employees to this new endeavor without hiring more people — doing more work with the same number of employees and preserving jobs.

This evolving nature of work brings the possibility that some people won’t adapt to the change, so NTT DATA has created a powerful organizational change management practice to help work this crucial human element into the implementation process. We empower health plans with strategies that improve employee acceptance of intelligent automation; these strategies include incentivizing employees with new jobs and monetary rewards when they suggest workflows that can be automated. Ensuring employee buy-in helps establish an automation-first mindset across the enterprise.

Keeping tabs on digital employees

It is important to manage digital employees in the same transparent manner that their human counterparts are managed, so managers can remain aware of what they are doing. That is why NTT DATA created a patented, hybrid command center exclusively for automation management. For example, suppose a nursing supervisor is managing a 40-member staff. In that case, 20 of whom are human and 20 of which are automations, they need to be able to evaluate their capacity and quality of work at all times.

Our hybrid command center provides key information from the workflow engine to enable the supervisor to keep a finger on the pulse of what the nurses and bots are doing. In addition, upfront operation analytics help the business owner of the transactions stay “in the know.” With our hybrid command center, the nursing supervisor can own the supervision of the bot just as if it were human by seeing the entire business in real-time and maintain a complete understanding of who — or what — is performing which tasks.

The care management team continues to make the decisions, but the bots can take care of repetitive administrative tasks, such as researching records or doing predictive modeling. For example, in the past, nurses could spend as much as 20 minutes researching member conferences, but the bot can now accomplish this task in advance and free the nurse to spend more time conferring with the patient or consulting with another one.

Health plans are sometimes afraid they may not achieve the value they’re hoping for with an intelligent automation implementation. However, NTT DATA offers our proven benefits modeling methodology before implementing factors in the plan’s strategic objectives to create an accurate expectation of return on value and total cost of ownership. This methodology quantifies return on investment (ROI), and the unique roadmap we create for each plan is aligned with the plan’s business strategy. It establishes a reliable way to measure the consumer experience and all values impacted by intelligent automation. Our hybrid command center features a dashboard that gives health plans visibility into their business processes to measure productivity accurately and generate more revenue and profit.

Getting past the fear and making the leap

NTT DATA has 15 years of experience helping our own company and many other clients in multiple industries make the shift to intelligent automation. We learned many valuable lessons while undergoing the learning experience with our organization, and we coupled that knowledge with the expertise we’ve acquired in our organizational change management practice. As a result, this experience has enabled us to develop the best practices that now benefit our clients.

We have developed and successfully implemented a strategic and advisory offering specifically designed for health plans for the past five years. In addition, the roadmaps it makes possible are designed for each individual health plan; they are not a one-size-fits-all offering since each plan’s needs are always unique. Finally, our health benefits modeling framework focuses on same-year return, and the roadmaps are designed to become self-funding within about a year. Thus, health plans can realize enhanced ROI in a relatively short time, which serves to allay any fears about intelligent automation further.

Learn more about how NTT DATA’s digital automation technologies can help to transform their business, applications and infrastructure operations.

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Deana Rhoades

Deana is a mother to two intelligent young girls and brings Data Intelligence and Automation solutions to healthcare customers at NTT DATA — in that order. She also believes that NTT DATA has the best approach to scaling Intelligent Automation programs for health plans by creating a self-funding sustainable enterprise capability underpinned by a solid governance foundation. This obsession began when she designed the ikaMedicareGateway — the first in the industry to automate reconciliation of the CMS membership files. She has been a Compliance Administrator at UPMC Health Plan. Deana has a BS and MBA from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and lives within minutes of the Punxsutawney Phil museum in Pennsylvania.

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