Stanford lightens cognitive EHR burden for physicians

Palo Alto, Calif.-based Stanford Health Care researchers found that using AI in the EHR to assist clinicians with answering patient messages has been able to reduce clerical burden and lower feelings of burnout.

Researchers studied how a large language model generated answers to patient messages from July to August 2023 on behalf of 162 primary care and gastroenterology clinicians. Researchers then surveyed those who used the tool. 

Those who responded to the survey said that the AI, which creates a draft response to patients' messages, lightened their cognitive load and improved their feelings of work exhaustion, according to a March 20 news release from Stanford. 

But the tool ultimately did not save clinicians time on answering patient messages.  

"We know that clinicians and care teams have been under a lot of pressure, even before the pandemic, and healthcare just hasn't been able to find a good solution for burnout," Patricia Garcia, MD, clinical associate professor of medicine and the associate chief medical information officer at Stanford Health Care, said in the release. "This was a serendipitous alignment where an amazing new technology came to fruition during a time when we needed a different, innovative solution. We're already seeing a positive impact on relieving burden, and I think it's just going to get more effective as we continue to iterate."

The full findings were published March 20 in JAMA Network Open.

Dr. Garcia said Stanford is planning to expand the use of this tool to other clinicians in the coming months. 

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