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.
0%error rate in bed allocation
20 minutesfaster allocation of beds to patients
3 hourssavings 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 Center wanted 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."
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.
Driving customer and staff satisfaction
Implementing intelligent automation to bed allocation task helped Asan Medical Center improve operational efficiency and provide better customer service. During the 12-week project, the error rate for bed allocation task was 0% for the selected 35 medical departments that handled almost 55% of total patients admitted. The beds were assigned a maximum 20 minutes faster compared to the manual system. AMC staff, involved in registering patients, were able to save approximately 3 hours daily - giving them more time to dedicate to patient care.
Currently, over 100 hospitalization registrations a day are being handled without human intervention. Considering the fact that even the distance walked by medical personnel is factored into the bed allocation system, patient rounds are more efficient too.Professor Kim Jong-Hyeok, Director, AMC Planning and Coordination Division, adds, “Within a short period, automated bed assignment and RPA improved work efficiency and we have achieved higher staff satisfaction. Each staff member who was previously involved in patient registration can save an estimated three hours a day now.”
The intelligent workflows are not only automated, optimized and personalized but are also dynamic and can flex and scale with ease to create new value. It has helped AMC link processes end-to-end, eliminating silos and cutting across functions to expose new outcomes. Kim Min-jung, Head - IBM Korea, Global Business Services, adds, “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. By automating routine activities, this system frees up hospital personnel to spend more time on other tasks and focus on improving patient care.”
With a vision to develop into a Smart Hospital, AMC aims to keep innovating using transformational technologies. Professor Kim Jong-Hyeok concludes, “In the future, the process of creating smarter and automated hospital processes will be expanded to various fields. I think it’s highly applicable to research, education, as well as medical fields, such as insurance claims, nurse assignments, material-related work, and so on. Ultimately, I think it will be possible to make the overall medical services of Asan Medical Center smarter.”
Asan Medical Center
Asan Medical Center is the largest medical institution in Korea with a total of 2,705 beds occupying about 85,000 square meters. Since its establishment in June 1989, Asan Medical Center has achieved a world-class medical reputation as it has continued to aggressively invest in R&D and clinical treatment. It strives to become a global standard in the world of medicine and establish itself as a leader of medical development in Korea. It has been leading Korea’s medical development field by treating patients with the help of highly experienced professionals and cutting-edge equipment. As a result, Asan Medical Center sees 11,885 outpatients, 2,540 inpatients and 328 emergency patients on an average daily while performing about 67,228 complex surgeries per year. Today, Asan Medical Center enjoys a reputation of being the most visited hospital in Korea.