COVID-19: Why straight-through processing matters more than ever

Form processing should be the last thing getting in the way of the fight against COVID-19. But that’s exactly what’s happening at many healthcare, government and financial institutions. In this post, we discuss how straight-through processing can help: what it is, why it matters and how to get it ASAP.

In the first 14 days of April 2020, roughly 2 million people in the US were tested for COVID-19. In the same period, about 250,000 small businesses applied for Small Business Administration (SBA) Paycheck Protection Program loans. By the end of the month, both numbers are likely to double.

But what’s often overlooked is that to get patients their results – and businesses their money – healthcare, government and financial institutions have to process the forms. And the problem is that many of them are doing the processing work manually – meaning they have people who read the form, extract the data and enter it into a spreadsheet. As a result, patients and businesses are left waiting longer than necessary. 

The good news is there’s an easy way for these organizations to turn things around and begin processing forms faster and at a greater capacity. It all comes down to straight-through processing (STP). 

What is Straight-Through Processing?  

Straight-through processing is the measurement within an automated system of how much information flows (and transforms) from one point to another without human involvement.

Processes that require humans to extract and/or validate data introduce security, timing and accuracy concerns. Historically it has been necessary to include humans-in-the-loop to achieve accuracy rates around 93%. However, systems that can ingest data and pass it to downstream systems with greater than 93% accuracy offer enormous improvements in straight-through processing (STP).

With STP, you’re able to send a percentage of data through an entire workflow without humans in the loop. In fact, in some Robotic Process Automation (RPA) applications, 100% of the workload is STP and these workflows run 24 hours a day human-free. 

Bottom line: The more straight-through processing an organization can do, the more improvements it will see in terms of accuracy, speed, security and data sanctity. 

Why Straight-Through Processing Matters During COVID-19 

COVID-19 Forms

COVID-19 swept the world fast. Many of the workflows in healthcare systems, governments and financial institutions were not suited for the enormous increase in volume due to COVID-19. Form processing is just one of those areas, but it’s proving to be a major roadblock when it comes to COVID-19 testing forms and SBA loan applications. 


COVID-19 Testing

When a healthcare organization moves to STP for COVID-19 forms, the HIPAA-certified medical workers who previously did the work can now pursue other, more important tasks. They can spend less time on rote data entry and more time on performance or front-line support. 

The faster a healthcare organization can process these forms, the faster they can increase testing capacity, identify problem areas and get care to the people who need it most.

SBA PPP Loan Application Processing 

This special loan program is designed to help small businesses keep their staff on payroll throughout the COVID-19 crisis. Needless to say, this program can provide significant relief to businesses economically impacted by the coronavirus. 

But because the program is so sorely needed, the daily demand for loans is now many times greater than what the SBA typically processes in a single year. 

Processing for SBA loans started on April 3 and runs until June 30. But it’s not entirely clear if these organizations will be able to process everything by the deadline. Loan providers have received so many applications that some are even limiting these applications to existing customers.

In a manual processing system, every loan application takes longer to get approved. Small businesses can only hang on for so long. The faster these loans are processed, the more businesses can stay afloat. 

Straight-through processing promises to meaningfully increase the capacity for these form-processing organizations to help the people who need them. But isn’t achieving significant gains in STP too big of a job to tackle right now?  

How to Improve Straight-Through Processing Right Now 

Healthcare, government and financial institutions can increase STP capacity – immediately – by using Vidado. 

Vidado is capable of extracting hard-to-read data with better-than-human speed and accuracy. This includes data like handwriting and checkboxes – all of which are found on SBA PPP and COVID-19 forms. It differs from more traditional OCR methods that can only read and extract clear, machine-printed text. 

This difference matters. In the healthcare world, for example, the CDC’s Case Report Form typically includes context and medical history that will help epidemiologists understand and slow the spread of the coronavirus. But a lot of this context is handwritten. Traditional OCR will not be able to extract it.

Vidado is trained on over one billion human-verified data points and 100,000+ deep learning models. This means that Vidado can achieve unparalleled accuracy rates on these CDC and SBA forms, often over 98%. Now, our customers can build STP workflows that don’t require human intervention. And they can do it on day 1, without having to train it themselves using their own data.

Lastly, Vidado is HIPAA-compliant and cloud-based. No one wants to be worrying about privacy issues, server capacity or deployment logistics (like model training) at a time like this. 


COVID-19 has forced us all to adapt almost overnight to meeting new, immediate challenges. Our ability to adjust to the new normal – and the speed with which we do it – is critical to how the next six months play out. Time matters for everyone in this situation. But time really matters for people and businesses on the front lines – and that extends to anyone or anything helping them get through it. 

During COVID-19, we’re offering free setup assistance to anyone processing COVID-19 forms and SBA PPP applications. To get started with COVID-19 forms, click here; to get started with SBA PPP applications, click here.

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