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  • Writer's pictureStayAhead Editorial Team

Dear Collection Manager: Why You Need to Automate the EDI Process Enterprise-wide

Automating EDI using RPA

Let’s accept the fact that electronic data interchange (EDI) is not something your teams are always looking forward to doing every day.

Extracting, transferring, and loading sounds simple. but it is not something that gets the collection staff excited to work. Even so, hundreds – if not thousands – of files are transacted between your agency and clients every day. Adding to this list, you have other data files that you need to process for scrubbing and enriching of data through various data providers. There are files that needs to be processed for various communication channels, including print and electronic media.

Getting Expensive

Today, business unit managers will agree to the fact that their operating expense is three times more than what it used to be five years ago. Day in and day out, with mounting number of accounts, it gets challenging for the operations staff to handle the overwhelming capacity of files that they need to process. It is hard to address this challenge by simply adding additional manpower to process this growing volume. Even if you end up adding additional staff, processing is not necessarily an easy task. Some data is difficult to sort and segregate because 80% of the time, clients end up exporting the entire data-set from their host systems (EHR/ ERP) and expect the collection agency to weave through the data and pick the data that is relevant for their processing within the compliance guidelines (HIPAA, PHI, and PII). This means, along with operations, compliance teams needs to oversee the whole process of extracting the data and processing them safely. Certainly, there are tools out there that can help in processing these files, but one needs to customize them for every single file and format. Because of this, there is additional cost involved because the standard off-the-shelf solutions might not fit. While analyzing the cost involved, we need to consider the time delay in processing such data. Approximately 95% of agencies processing them manually means there is a delay in listing these accounts for the collectors to work on.

Can this be automated?

Because most of these files are unique in nature and their source systems widely varies from each other, it might look like a daunting undertaking. However, with the flexibility available through the RPA bots, it is possible to deploy two types of robots to carry out these tasks:

  1. Semi-automated, also called as “attended bots,” can be programmed to sort the data and assist the users by preparing all the necessary files. Upon users’ approval, it would carry out the rest of the processing. This would be more appropriate if you are deploying the bot for a new process or simply wanting to have more control on the process before it gets streamlined.

  2. Fully automated, also called as “unattended bots,” are usually programmed to function independently. If there is a process that is well-established and streamlined, then one can confidently deploy the unattended bot where the robots will carry out all the tasks end-to-end. For example, if there is a structured data delivered by a client that needs a set of standard data manipulation and arithmetic operations or if a file needs to be prepared for upload, such processes would be excellent candidates for this type of a bot.

Across the entire operations, automating the EDI process will not only reduce the burden for the operations manager, but will have full control on the process since there is an equal distribution of activities between human and bots. Such automation's are critical for operations to scale and sustain.

Freeing up staff

With most of time-consuming activities like EDI transferred to bots, displaced staff can now be reallocated to other areas, particularly functions related to client management and development where there is a need to nurture and build relationships. Employees are more excited with such activities. With certain projects that requires creativity and innovation, now managers have team members available at their disposal. Employees like to get involved in more engaging and creative responsibilities and they tend to outperform themselves on such tasks. Remember, it is all about efficiency. As leaders, you must utilize the available resources and maximize productivity.

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