The healthcare industry is changing at a fast pace in an attempt to deliver better patient care while controlling costs and improving operational inefficiencies. Asan Medical Center wanted to automate the bed allocation procedure to reduce the workload on hospital staff, allowing them more time to focus on high-value customer service tasks.
Using the IBM Garage methodology, IBM Services team worked with Asan Medical Center to restructure complex workflows and streamline bed allocation processes through intelligent automation. As an extension to the automated bed allocation process, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) was also applied to related tasks, such as inpatient registration, reservation change and cancellation.
error rate in bed allocation
faster allocation of beds to patients
savings per staff member per day due to automation
Business challenge story
Automating complex repetitive task of bed allocation
In the highly competitive healthcare industry in South Korea, customer service and efficiency are major points of differentiation—and technology is increasingly becoming a key enabler.
To establish itself as a patient-centered hospital, Asan Medical Centerwanted to improve the service provided to its patients. It realized that there was an opportunity to free up the hospital staff from the repetitive task of bed allocation which is a complex, manual task and training new personnel in this task usually takes several months. AMC wanted to automate the critical processes and complex criteria of bed allocation.
Woo Ye-seon, Deputy Director, Asan Medical Center, elaborates, “There were a lot of repetitive tasks in bed assignments, so we didn’t have enough time to work on more important tasks, such as customer reception. So, we wanted to spend more time on customer reception or services, which is a high value-added task, by reducing the working hour of staff spent on minor tasks.”
“There were a lot of repetitive tasks in bed assignments, so we didn’t have enough time to work on more important tasks, such as customer reception. So we wanted to spend more time on customer reception or services, which is a high value-added task, by reducing the working hour of staff spent on minor tasks.”
— Woo Ye-seon, Deputy Director, Asan Medical Center
Leveraging intelligent automation
In early 2018 , Professor Kim Jong-Hyeok, Director, AMC Planning and Coordination Division, visited IBM Research Lab in New York to experience the most promising and disruptive technologies, including artificial intelligence, blockchain, IBM Watson and intelligent automation. Professor Kim Jong-Hyeok discussed in detail with the IBM team on the need for digitization and automation in hospitals, and how they could improve patient and staff experience when applied to select strategic areas. He adds, “I discussed about IBM Watson and Design Thinking with the research center staff, I was impressed by the way they work, the way they innovated new things, and their teamwork.”
Later, the IBM global team visited Asan Medical Center in Korea to conduct a 3-day Design Thinking workshop – a user-centric framework used to solve problems in a creative and practical way, at the speed and scale of a modern enterprise. During the workshop the IBM and AMC teams analyzed the hospital’s pain points, their as-is environment, envisioned goals and priorities for to-be state. This included an assessment of all the departments that were appropriate for automation and selecting the one that needed it the most. Professor Kim Jong-Hyeok recalls: “The Supplies, appropriate treatment, and medical teams expressed a huge need for automation, and among them, we discussed about what kind of tasks should the automation be applied first, and we chose to automate the bed assignment which was closest to customer experience and interaction work.”
Using the IBM Garage methodology, IBM Services and Asan Medical Center embarked on a 12-week project covering 35 departments. The initial phase of the project was focused on defining the use cases. This step included identifying business processes and requirements, defining and configuring data requirements, and setting performance assessment criteria for the bed allocation task. The team also analyzed potential task that could be automated using RPA and selected 2 test target candidates.
In the next phase, IBM Services team analyzed all workflows and rules for the bed allocation task. Complex workflows were restructured and new rules for bed allocation were defined to remove redundancy and improve efficiency. Leveraging intelligent workflows, an automated system was devised that would assign beds based on a complex interplay of various sets of criteria. This included patients’ preferences, surgery schedules, special patient circumstances, reservation status of each department, and even factors such as the distance the medical staff would need to cover to meet the needs of each patient.
As an extension of the automated bed allocation process, RPA was applied to related tasks, such as inpatient registration or reservation change and cancellation.
“It’s gratifying to see the difference made to the efficient running of Asan Medical Center when intelligent workflows help make sense of front- and back-office data and insights to help healthcare professionals deal with administrative tasks quickly and efficiently.”
— Kim Min-jung, Head, Global Business Services, IBM Korea