The digitization of healthcare continues to produce tremendous change across the industry – from patient care and provider enablement, to hospital operations and member benefits management. However, the 20-year-plus push to digitize healthcare records is on an inevitable crash course with two other industry trends: 1) Severely outdated health technology platforms, and more importantly 2) an overburdened healthcare workforce. Both trends are contributing to a situation where the potential for recordkeeping errors is far greater than it should be, and where providers are spending less time with patients and more time tending to administrative duties.

This current state of medical recordkeeping is why adding an AI digital colleague like Amelia to the healthcare workforce can lead to tremendous benefits for providers, administrators, staff and ultimately patients. Amelia’s ability to intelligently learn and manage a high volume of healthcare records tackles these trends head-on: She can bring new degrees speed and accuracy to recordkeeping, and take some of the administrative pressure off of providers and hospital staff – keeping the focus on patients.

The Emergence of Electronic Health Records (EHRs)

The digitization of US healthcare records was formally set in motion in 1991 by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), a division of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, through a series of sponsored studies and related reports. The IOM described eight core functions that an electronic health record (EHR) should encompass:

  • Health Information and Data
  • Result Management
  • Order Management
  • Decision Support
  • Electronic Communication and Connectivity
  • Patient Support
  • Administrative Processes and Reporting
  • Reporting and Population Health

From there, additional forces drove EHR adoption, such as the founding of the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) for Health Information Technology in April 2004. The ONC is the principal US federal entity charged with coordinating nationwide efforts to implement and use health IT and encourage the digital exchange of health information, including EHRs. Additionally, President Obama identified the EHR as a priority for his administration and signed into law the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, which promoted the widespread adoption of the HER. Fast forward to last year, and nearly 70% of all providers reported using EHRs, double the amount in 2008.

Despite the success in EHR dissemination and adoption, EHR administration overall is taking time away from patient care, with providers evenly dividing their workday between updating EHRs and patient interaction. In addition to the time devoted to processing EHRs, providers also find themselves needing to coordinate with providers with inefficient workflows and processes — meaning even more patient care time is lost.

Facing Ongoing Physician Burnout Issues

As providers attempt to balance EHR administration with patient care, many surveys and studies show that the US healthcare industry, like other regions, is experiencing high rates of provider burnout. For example, a recent study published by the Mayo Clinic Proceedings found more than half of US providers fall under this category. The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) defines burnout as: “A syndrome characterized by a loss of enthusiasm for work (emotional exhaustion), feeling of cynicism (depersonalization), and a low sense of personal accomplishment, regarded as the result of prolonged stress.”

Growing burnout rates are weighing down the healthcare industry and contributing to a variety of potential negative outcomes for patient recordkeeping, to say nothing of patient care. EHR error potential increases, doctors are working in a less efficient manner, and many are referring patients to other consultants in order minimize their own workload. Taken together, these are factors that contribute to rising costs, poor outcomes, and decreased patient satisfaction.

The Advantages of a Cognitive AI Colleague

As the digitization of healthcare continues, providers and hospitals need to consider how new technology investments will augment their current systems. When it comes to recordkeeping, it’s evident that current EHR platforms are not going to be phased out any time soon with next generation replacements, nor is funding available to pay for sizable workforce increases to augment providers’ work on administrative tasks.

Hiring Amelia as a cognitive health colleague can relieve providers and caregivers of some of the EHR-related stress. Amelia can deliver value as a member of an overall care team – while doctors focus on diagnosing and treating their patients, Amelia can focus on securely collecting and maintaining patient records and information. This includes data related to patient and family history, tests, medicines etc.

While doctors focus on diagnosing and treating their patients, Amelia can focus on securely collecting and maintaining patient records and information.

Amelia also can be hired for additional roles beyond record keeper. She can act as a “whisper agent” providing doctors and caregivers with real-time information from an EHR, such as drug interaction warnings and other data, when consulting with patients. She can interact with patients and gather information in a pre-operative setting, provide instructions in a post-operative setting, answer questions concerning an existing condition, and assist with appointments and scheduling. She can look up patient lab results, keep track of specific tasks needed to be completed on a given timeline (e.g. follow-up appointments), and remind providers about relevant patient social milestones (e.g. that a patient is having a cast for a broken arm removed today).

The burden from EHRs and other tasks is so high that providers and hospitals should be looking for every possible advantage to lighten the administrative load and augment their current resources. Cognitive AI such as Amelia is tailor-made to address current challenges, and ultimately will lead the healthcare industry into its next wave of digitization.

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