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How AI is Improving Clinical Workflows and Reducing Physician Burnout

Published on 3/27/2019

Estimated read time: 4 minutes

The technological environment in health care is evolving at a rapid pace. We are in the early stages of an era that will see an explosion of innovation. As the physician burnout crisis challenges the health care industry, providers are experiencing overwhelming frustration and a loss of professional fulfillment due to factors such as loss of autonomy and decreased efficiency.

According to a 2019 MedScape National Physician Burnout, Depression & Suicide Report, 44 percent of physicians report feeling burned out; 11 percent are colloquially depressed and four percent are clinically depressed. It’s clear that health IT companies must develop tools that can assist physicians in improving patient outcomes, while also reducing the burden of care delivery.

Increasing physician satisfaction with AI

Artificial intelligence (AI) can be used to improve physicians’ workflows while simultaneously contributing to burnout relief and prevention. Data input and output is one example of where AI can improve physician satisfaction and efficiency. According to the results of a survey by Stanford Medicine and The Harris Poll, 62 percent of a physician’s time with a patient is spent in the EHR. AI has potential to take over the time-consuming task of data input so that clinicians can focus on providing the highest quality of care to patients.

Envision a world where a provider can walk into an exam room, have a conversation with their patient, complete a physical exam, discuss treatment options, and then walk out of the room with all discrete clinical data documented, orders placed, notes completed and charges captured.

This vision is becoming a reality – bringing positive change to how physicians’ practice and interact with patients. Microphone arrays, sensors, video and other inputs are being designed to observe patient-provider interactions, transcribe those encounters and correlate them with sensor data. Key clinical concepts extracted from the transcripts and non-verbal cues derived from sensor data can provide supplemental information to aid in speaker identification, non-verbal communication.

AI can turn health care data into actionable insights

Now that the data is inputted into the EHR, what can we do with it? There is so much data in the EHR that we’ve exceeded our human capacity to process it in any discernible way. Fortunately, computers and AI are great at identifying data patterns and determining which data and trends are impactful to outcomes. This allows health care organizations to generate patient summaries that provide relevant data, insights and potential interventions in a concise and meaningful way.

To be clinically relevant, the data also needs to be dynamic and align with the physician workflow. As providers and patients interact, new information can present itself in real-time. AI technology will decipher this information and evaluate its importance to decision making. The AI tools will interpret and share any new insights that are derived from the conversation in real-time on the in-room monitor.  Machine learning-based knowledge graphs will assist providers by suggesting differential diagnosis and identifying potential gaps in care including necessary treatments and care pathways to better manage patient conditions.

In 2018, over 1.3 million medical papers were published on Medline, making it nearly impossible for clinicians to keep up with current best practices. AIs that can explore literature will soon be effective at indexing those papers and curating appropriate clinical models and pathways that can be matched to patients in real-time from longitudinal data sets.  When that information is made available to clinicians, it will augment decision making and be incredibly powerful at driving better patient management and improved outcomes.

What’s next for AI in health care

Throughout history, when industries, such as music, retail and communication, have gone digital, we’ve seen a rapid acceleration of innovation and disruption. Meaningful use provided the catalyst for health care digitization. Now, a tsunami of change, which will take advantage of digitization to innovate and advance technology and data availability, is coming. Data input and output is going to change.

In the next two to three years, AI will rapidly transform the way clinicians interact with EHRs. Clinicians’ perceptions of EHRs will also transition as the technology becomes an invaluable tool that empowers them to practice with confidence and establish and maintain meaningful relationships with the patients they serve.

Cerner believes physicians deserve support from tools and technology that create a seamless and uncomplicated experience across many venues, departments, roles and service lines. Learn more here.