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May 04, 2017
Robotic Process Automation: a New Vision for Health and Public Services
By: Nicola Smith

Depending on which headline you read, some 35% of jobs will be automated over the next 10-20 years. This change will have a profound impact on the delivery of our health and public services, where emerging technologies such as robotics, automation and cognitive computing will transform the workforce. The robot workforce, for years the stuff of science fiction, is fast being realised.

One of the key drivers behind the rise of Robotic Process Automation in our public services is, of course, financial. We live in an age of austerity, where health and public service organisations are under huge pressure to do more with less. With the cost of industrial robotic licenses up to 80% less than human labour, robotics and automation will help improve our public services while also managing cost.

Soon, our health and public services will be supported by a workforce of virtual agents: a rules-based, automated workforce that connects humans – public services users, patients, healthcare workers and other relevant stakeholders – to each other, and to automated applications. Robotic Process Automation will be a key enabler, revolutionising business processes and helping to create public services that can run themselves.

A solution for every need

What’s more, the flexibility of Robotic Process Automation means it can be tailored to fit exactly a wide range of public service requirements. Robotic Process Automation can be delivered as a short-term solution (3-6 months) delivering immediate automation benefits prior to a wider, more complex business transformation. Alternatively, it can be used to completely eradicate the need for expensive IT interfaces. Public service agencies can therefore adapt at a pace that suits them, helping them manage risks and ensure they get the most benefit from the technology.

Risk, of course, also comes down to security. In health and other public services security is a must, and agencies in these fields cannot afford to lose sensitive citizen data. This is an area in which automation comes into its own, ensuring security compliance for the most risk adverse organisations and with a full audit trail. In fact, data protection is more controlled in the hands of the robot than a human. Once the cultural barrier of relying on machines in this way has been climbed, automation will really live up to its promise.

Leading by example

Accenture has worked with clients across all industries helping them to overcome some of these cultural barriers and deliver benefits through automation including Robotics. We’ve also been sure to practice what we preach and have undergone our own transformation through automation. Our use of emerging technologies has enabled us to automate over 22,000 roles, a move which allowed us to take on additional work without growing headcount, moreover it has also allowed us to re-focus our people on higher-value business improvement and innovation activities.

There are many theories about whether robotics and automation will create a surplus workforce. Our experience has been the opposite: robotics and automation has freed workers from mundane tasks and helped them realise new opportunities. In fact, we believe that robotics and automation will prove essential to our society, helping us address the talent gaps emerging in a wide range of industries and augmenting the workforce in a world where the population is aging.

Robotic Process Automation is just the start of the automation journey, in my next blog I will talk about how organisations can combine this technology with digitisation tools and workflow, and incorporate Artificial Intelligence.

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