How Epic, Microsoft plan to use AI to answer patient inquiries

EHR vendor Epic Systems and Microsoft are training Azure OpenAI on a large collection of information so it can asynchronously draft responses to patient messages for providers, The Verona Press reported May 4.  

Epic expanded its partnership with the tech giant April 17. The companies are working on developing and integrating Microsoft's generative AI into Epic's EHR software to reduce the documentation burden on providers. 

As providers saw an increase in patient message volumes due to the pandemic, the EHR vendor sees OpenAI's tool as a way to save providers time. 

"This overall has incredible potential in our industry to reduce the administrative burden, to automate mundane tasks and to give providers as much as that face-to-face time with patients as possible," Garrett Adams, product lead for Epic's ambulatory research and development division, told the publication.  

Azure OpenAI will provide draft messages to providers, who can then review the message and make any modifications before it is sent to a patient. 

Physicians also can opt to draft a blank message if they do not prefer OpenAI's version. 

When it comes to security, Mr. Adams said using Azure OpenAI services allows the vendor to use patient data and information securely because it is already HIPAA compliant.  

"I think that as much as we can do to improve the happiness and reduce the burden on users, that's just gonna pay dividends on the care that they're able to provide for patients," he said.

The tool is being piloted at UC San Diego Health, Madison Wis.-based UW Health and Palo Alto, Calif.-based Stanford Health Care.

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