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Physician groups turning to AI for relief from EHR documentation burden

Dr. Graham Hughes, President and Chief Medical Officer at Saykara, talks about how AI is helping physicians to function well and find relief from the EHR burden.

There is no denying that the complex and time-intensive nature of clinical charting meets with the ire of most healthcare providers. They spend more hours entering data to electronic health records than seeing patients. Determined to fight back, many physician groups are turning to artificial intelligence (AI) for relief from the documentation burden.

The business of medicine is dependent on operational efficiency

When Dr. Chris LeSar founded the Vascular Institute of Chattanooga (VIC) in 2015, he was committed to delivering unsurpassed outcomes for patients with critical limb ischemia. This pioneer of minimally invasive surgical techniques for amputation prevention understood, however, that operational efficiency is essential to running a successful healthcare practice.

“I knew that I wanted to fundamentally change how vascular care is delivered,” said LeSar. “Although we achieved profitability very quickly and were able to maximize efficiency in most every operational area of the practice, we realized that key performance indicators involving clinical documentation were in need of improvement. We adopted an AI voice assistant expressly designed to automate clinical charting, and the impact has been extremely positive.”

AI results in fewer hours spent on documentation, more daily visits

A survey of nurse practitioners using the AI voice assistant at VIC found that 100% believe it results in fewer hours each day to create documentation, less overall time to finalize encounter notes and is better than other clinical charting methods. Consequently, they have been able to substantially increase the number of daily visits without sacrificing the amount of face-to-face time with patients. With demand for VIC’s services ever increasing and the recent addition of a third location, this was a strategic imperative.

Losing physicians to burnout is not an option.

Faced with the very real prospect of losing physicians to burnout, Delaware-based Nephrology Associates, P.A. is another group that has adopted AI technology to reduce the clinical documentation burden. “Most of the data we enter to electronic health records has no useful purpose in terms of care delivery, it’s there solely for insurance billing, public reporting and regulatory mandates,” said Dr. Prayus Tailor, an attending nephrologist at Nephrology Associates, P.A. “I am seeing colleagues seriously consider retiring early or quitting and taking a different direction with their careers. We need creative solutions to reverse course. I can tell you firsthand, my quality of life is so much better since I starting using an AI voice assistant.”

An iPhone app listens to conversations between physicians and patients.

Previously, physicians at Nephrology Associates, P.A. had to manually key data to electronic health records. Although some physicians were aided by basic speech recognition software, the overall process was laborious, involving eyes on the computer screen and resulting in significant cognitive strain. Now, with an AI voice assistant, physicians access an iPhone app that listens to their conversations with patients and does most of the charting for them.

AI in the presence of patients benefits the accuracy of notes and reinforces care plans.

“With the AI voice assistant, I just talk naturally,” said Tailor. “I find that patients really like this, especially when I summarize what I’ve heard them say and what I intend to include in the electronic health record, which gives them an opportunity to either confirm that I have it right or correct me if I’ve misstated something. It also helps reinforce what they need to do before their next visit.”

Physicians enjoy better work-life balance, better quality of care and better patient relationships.

Use of an AI voice assistant to automate production of clinical notes means physicians at Nephrology Associates, P.A. no longer have to spend evening and weekend hours completing their charting, which translates to better work-life balance, better quality of care and better patient relationships. “Adopting technology that automates charting and reduces administrative work not only gives our physicians much-needed time back for themselves and their loves ones, it also gives them more time with their patients,” said David Fisher, executive director at Nephrology Associates, P.A.

AI supports digital transformation and the ‘Amazonification of care.’

The Midwest Institute for Minimally Invasive Therapies has been on a journey of digital transformation that founder and CEO, Dr. Paramjit “Romi” Chopra, refers to as the ‘Amazonification of care.’

“We model everything we do around delivering patient-centered care,” said Chopra. “When providers are tethered to a computer during a patient visit, they aren’t connecting with the patient, they aren’t building a symbiotic, trusting relationship.” With an AI voice assistant, providers at this Chicagoland medical group no longer carry the burden of clinical documentation into the exam room. Chopra attributes a fivefold boost in productivity to this technology.

Mobility is a real asset, especially when serving patients at multiple locations

“All of our providers use this technology — our physicians, our physician assistants and our nurse practitioners,” said Chopra. “The fact it’s mobile is incredibly important to us. Although most of our work is done in one of our seven outpatient clinics, we also see patients in a number of area hospitals as well as skilled nursing facilities and long-term care facilities. We even occasionally see patients in their homes. And because the app is on our iPhones, it’s always with us and always available.”

Chopra believes the path to long-term success lies in treating a patient’s spirit, mind and body. “Using an AI voice assistant allows our providers to focus on their patients and create personalized, meaningful and collaborative interactions.”

AI is proving to be a capable antidote to the EHR documentation burden

AI is able to interpret conversations with patients, transform salient content into clinical notes, orders, referrals and more, then populate both structured and narrative data directly to electronic health records. It may just be the perfect antidote to the documentation burden.

We can now reliably say, “There is an app for that!”

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