Man vs. Machine: Moving into the Future

Date:   Wednesday , July 13, 2016

Headquartered in Colorado, Parascript\'s solutions enable businesses to gather meaningful and contextual data from image or document-based information and support transactions, information governance, business processes and prevent frauds.

Today, you can have your cake and eat it too. Businesses are doing just that - cutting costs with advanced classification and data extraction technologies while simultaneously saving jobs. How are businesses accomplishing this?

Faster, Better, Smarter

The typical response to the need to improve speed, quality or accuracy is to automate. However, countless case studies show that humans need to be involved. Whether it is artificial intelligence, machine learning, deep learning or simply mechanical machines, the idea that automation can replace human-performed tasks has been popular in one form or another for years. Increasingly, businesses are putting advanced technology into the mainstream with the intent to supplement human-based work. What works is assistive, not replacement technology.

For example, at Parascript, the staff has been working with advanced machine vision and machine learning technologies for over 20 years, applying it to very practical needs in banking and government. Solving needs such as locating and interpreting handwritten or text-based information into transactional or actionable data should be the motto of every organization. These problems affect every organization and are core issues with customer service, operational effectiveness, and information governance. To put it simply, machine learning and artificial intelligence cannot provide both highly automated and highly accurate document classification results. AI does very well at defined tasks where there is a defined answer, but where transposition is required, humans do a superior job. The answer is to intelligently blend both computer-based heuristics with human-based workflows.

Automation Maturity Continuum

Assistive technology continues to transform the traditional document services industry. Whether on the input or output side, document outsourcing has become a modern operation with more emphasis on high-tech automation over traditionally manually-intensive tasks. Managed services are no longer simple data keying operations. Today, outsourcers take on more of the entire document-oriented business process because specialization and expansion of services is the path to growth and differentiation.

While there is continued pressure to expand services and increase efficiencies for these businesses, there are very few services that BPOs themselves can look to for help. Plenty of software solution providers are happy to sell automation software, but automation has its own set of hurdles:

- Technology needs to be installed, configured, tuned and supported.

- BPOs and managed service providers need a trusted partner that can take the burden of implementation, tuning, monitoring and improving the data processing performance so that they can manage their customers, related services and the associated SLAs.

- Technology, while a strategic investment, needs to be tied to the performance of the service and not on abstract pricing models.

Because of this, there tends to be a continuum of technology proficiency that most service providers go through. In a general sense, we see businesses in one of the following stages:

- Automation of image acquisition with limited automation on data entry: This is the area that involves higher-speed processes involved with scanning and some level of document ID through use of barcodes, but the data entry side is rudimentary with \'single stream\' processing.

- Automation of data entry tasks: This is a more-advanced set of technology-managed workflow that provides tight control of data entry operations, monitoring of quality and the ability to proactively manage project workloads through real-time work re-tasking.

- Limited automated data extraction: In this stage, the provider has applied OCR and other recognition technologies to more standardized and structured forms.

- Advanced automation of data extraction: At this stage, the provider can process a wider range of document types and formats through application of more dynamic data location and extraction capabilities.

- Automation of document pre-processing: For some reason, even the most advanced service providers often leave the tasks of document classification and sorting to humans. At this stage, the provider has adopted automated classification technology that obviates the need for barcodes or separator sheets.

- Vertically-integrated services: At this stage, the service provider not only provides document processing and data services, but also operates actual business processes such as claims adjudication or remittance reconciliation activities. Take the service bureau that processes claims on behalf of hospitals. Over a decade ago, this business ran successfully by taking over the task of scanning and keying-in data, which was then returned back to the hospital. With increased competitive pressure, successful bureaus have evolved into vertically-oriented, managed service providers or Business Process Outsourcers (BPOs). Adding to the imaging and keying, they now review and screen claims as well as provide reconciliation with remittances. In essence, they have expanded to become the next generation of health payment outsourcers. The same transformation is occurring in general Accounts Payable processing and other key, non-core business processes that involve document-based data.

Next Generation Outsourcers

An April 2016 poll of BPOs conducted by Infosurv revealed that BPOs expect to grow revenue with new customers and expanded service offerings. The survey showed that BPOs are looking to increase revenue through new customers and expanding service offerings. \'New customers\' typically means selling current offerings to new businesses; while \'expanding service offerings\' typically includes working with new documents and data requirements. To efficiently expand service offerings, businesses need to work smarter with the current staff using assistive technologies.

A significant source of ongoing revenue for BPOs that deal with documents is likely to become data analytics. Major revenue will be generated for BPOs that provide predictive analytics using data extracted from business documents. Plenty of examples exist in applying analytics to aid in identifying purchasing behavior and to predict future needs. Applying analytics on data has many positive impacts - both increasing revenue and reducing costs. When applied to organizational needs, analytics on documents such as invoices and receipts can provide insights into the best times to make purchases and help control unnecessary spending.

Currently, the most common services related to claims processing are data capture, data quality, claim adjudication, and claims reconciliation. However, another level of service exists that could have a significant positive impact upon the healthcare industry - predictive analytics. Applying pattern recognition to claims data can identify hidden patterns of patients with the likelihood of hospitalization based upon diagnoses and procedure codes along with other demographic data.

What if a BPO servicing these companies could offer business insights along with the data that they provide back to the carriers? These insights could highlight patients at-risk of hospitalization or patients that are in-need of specialist care. Insurance companies, through these added \'insight services\' provided by the BPO can take a larger role in the active health management of its members and help save lives.

All of this data trapped in claims, invoices, receipts and other transactional documents can add much more value through the application of analytics and provide a high-value revenue stream to BPOs. More value leads to a higher level of competitiveness. Leveraging assistive technologies today may mean saving jobs and lower costs now with the very real promise of new revenue sources of value-added services to BPO clients tomorrow.