Tegria, founded in 2020 as a for-profit spinoff from northwestern healthcare entity Providence, helps hospitals, health systems, providers, and facilities optimize care, integrate technology, accelerate revenue, and transform operations.
As a lead consultant at Tegria, Samuel Holder leads hospital and health system implementations and upgrades for the Meditech platform. Based in Canton, Massachusetts, Meditech is an electronic health records (EHR) vendor, used in more than 2,300 health systems around the world. An EHR is the central hub of a hospital, tracking patients, tests and procedures, claims, medical records, and much more.
Implementing or upgrading EHR software is a time-consuming and tedious endeavor that can overwhelm even the most experienced IT staff, which is why hospitals engage with Tegria for assistance.
The consultant has been helping healthcare organizations implement Meditech systems for two decades, and he notes that many manual processes remain where automation technology can help. “A hospital exec typically doesn’t come to us and say, ‘Hey, we need automation.’ And a lot of times a request gets referred to as ‘scripting.’ While scripting can be a solution, there’s generally a much larger opportunity with robotic process automation.”
That’s why Holder uses Automate, a robotic process automation solution that brings together disparate systems to automate high-volume processes like claims processing, patient record transfers, billing, and appointment scheduling.
Holder believes Automate provides added value to his clients – both during implementation and through automating day-to-day processes that consume staff time. These projects typically save clients several hours a day, freeing up resource time for other work and creating efficiencies in staffing.
“When hospitals are building their entire EHR on the Meditech platform, that’s hundreds of various medical, coding, financial, and claims dictionaries or data-required sections that have to be populated with thousands of entries,” says Holder.
“Using Automate, we replicate that manual workload by having the data available in spreadsheets or databases and then build a process to write that into Meditech,” Holder says. “Additionally, if we need to revise those entries in the future, we have a replicable process to achieve that. We eliminate the burden of having to rebuild.”
Saving Time and Labor With Automate
Holder recently completed an automation project for Mount Nittany Health in State College, Pennsylvania, that saves the time equivalent of a full-time employee (FTE). Mount Nittany uses Meditech and hired a third-party vendor for patient reimbursement that required daily data movement between the EHR and the vendor. Before automation, the vendor manipulated the file based on recent activity and sent it back to the health system, where a biller went in to make changes to individual patient accounts. The daily feed contains up to 300 changes, which need to be manually updated. Additionally, the month-end file contains thousands of records that also need updating, which results in an overwhelming number of daily tasks.
The consultant integrated the two systems and built a bot to automate the process. “We’re monitoring the file, ingesting the file, taking the contents of the file and writing it to a SQL database,” Holder says. “Then the bot queries the database to find each account, identifying the changes, making them on the Meditech platform, writing log files, and then updating the table accordingly so that we know where we are in the process. The goal was to be completely autonomous, so the bot was developed in such a way to require no direct oversight or babysitting. Because files are transmitted every day of the week, weekend functionality was a must.”
Using Automate, each record takes about 20 seconds to open, make changes, and close. After completing this initial process, a different routine launches to upload the updated accounts to the appropriate patient record. In all, the completely autonomous process takes about one hour, Holder says. That compares with the four-plus hours required for a human to complete these tasks — with zero chance for error.
Other examples of healthcare automation projects Holder has led using Automate include:
- Mount Nittany Health: A bot assists with the medical necessity maintenance by regularly ingesting a 700,000-line-long file and making changes in Meditech.
- Atlantic Health System (New Jersey): Use Automate for report delivery, file movement, and notifications within its Omnicell environment that formerly were performed by staff.
- North Country Healthcare (New Hampshire): Monitor file directory for patient reports written by university-affiliated physicians that need to be sent to the referring physician and appended to the patient file. The bot checks the directory every few minutes for files, reads the contents, parses account information, launches Meditech, uploads the report, and notifies the referring physician. This process replaced a full-time employee whose entire job was monitoring the directory and manually updating Meditech and notifying physicians
No Coding Experience Needed
Despite the numerous Automate bots he’s built since 2006, Holder does not consider himself a coder or a programmer. He especially appreciates Automate for its drag-and-drop capabilities, easy-to-use graphical user interface (GUI), and ability to interact easily with Meditech.
“I find Automate super robust when I'm interacting with the Meditech client,” Holder says. “There’s always a need to look for certain pixels, and Automate allows me to configure it in such a way that I can interact with the proprietary application with ease.”
While healthcare remains on the cutting edge of technology used to treat patients, that forward thinking doesn’t necessarily translate to automating processes that can save time and create workflow efficiencies. The Tegria lead consultant believes that Automate can help.
“Automate is a great tool to show administrators how robotic process automation can manage an entire interaction between an electronic health record and a third-party vendor,” Holder says. “Every client I've worked with or done work for I look for opportunities to automate. I think automation is the future.”