Giving physicians the personal touch back with conversational AI

Administrative burden is one of the primary drivers of clinician frustrations and ultimately burnout. However, solutions powered by conversational artificial intelligence (AI)  may help greatly reduce this stress and improve both the patient and provider experience.  

Paula Pasquinelli, clinician solutions business manager at 3M Health Information Systems (3M HIS), spoke with Becker's about the role technology can play in addressing burnout and how 3M HIS helps physicians master the technology instead of simply using it.

Question: Speech has evolved to become the user interface of choice, both in healthcare and the consumer world. Has speech impacted healthcare, especially clinicians, in unexpected ways?

Paula Pasquinelli: When we first started working on speech and machine learning technologies for clinical documentation workflows years ago, we didn't know physicians would be spending nearly 50 percent of their time on desk work. We didn't know administrative burden would lead to widespread and devastating burnout for so many clinicians. If front-end speech recognition was a game changer in the early days, it's a lifesaver in today's complex healthcare environment. We hear from our clients every day about how speech-enabled EHR workflows save time, reduce effort and create a more complete clinical note. 

To quote a physician client, "Thanks to 3M HIS, I save several minutes on every follow-up visit and about 10 minutes on every new consultation. Compared to documenting in the EHR without any speech recognition, this saves me three to four hours every day." Others have noted that using our speech recognition solution cuts time spent documenting per patient by more than half. This is a significant amount of physician time that can now be focused on patient care.

Q: Do you see healthcare organizations expanding the role of artificial intelligence in 2021?

PP: I do. Artificial intelligence adds a whole new layer to speech recognition, with things like computer-assisted physician documentation (CAPD) functionality that proactively provides physicians the clinical insights they need, when they need them and in the form they need them. It's no longer just about capturing the clinical narrative – we are unifying workflows, reducing rework and helping physicians easily document for optimal care, coding and compliance. Conversational and interactive AI is proving to be a needed navigational technology. Physicians struggling to effectively get information into the electronic record can use an AI-based virtual assistant with advanced speech recognition and natural language understanding to capture clinical documentation from conversational speech between physician and patient. These next-generation solutions can deliver an ambient experience that can completely transform the patient-physician relationship. Instead of just capturing the words, the virtual assistant understands the intent of care providers, helps them automatically fill gaps and improves the overall quality of care. The goal is to meaningfully engage the physician in her/his preferred workflow with integrated, non-disruptive and assistive technologies that make the lives of physicians and patients better. Ultimately, technology is only a means to an end, which should be all about improving patient and clinician well-being. Technology must enhance human interaction, not detract from it.

Q: Do you see any challenges coming down the road with these fast-evolving technologies?

PP: You bring up a great point because no matter how cutting edge the technology, it is the willingness and ability of the end users that determines success. As with any rapidly advancing technology, we have to deal with the challenges of user adoption and disruption to normal physician workflows. To that end, we make sure our technology is integrated into existing systems such as the EHR and current workflows within those systems. We want to enable information-driven workflows so that we can have a positive impact by saving the lives of patients and creating time to care for physicians. This requires a high-touch, at-the-elbow approach to support the technology — this services-enabled approach can be customized to the needs of each individual physician. 

Our goal at 3M HIS is to proactively prevent any physician frustration and help the provider organization fully realize the benefits of speech recognition and, subsequently, the EHR. To paraphrase a client, we help them master the technology instead of simply using it.

Q: Physician engagement is both difficult and essential for the success of healthcare organizations, as is physician satisfaction. Can technology help with these tough issues?

PP: Technology plays a huge role in improving physician engagement and satisfaction. The EHR is supported and complemented by technologies like speech recognition and CAPD. Speech recognition can help physicians spend more and better time with patients by taking away the burden of data entry while CAPD relieves them of the need to know all the latest coding and compliance requirements. We routinely see great physician engagement with our speech understanding and built-in CAPD technology, and this only grows as the system gains the trust and confidence of clinicians. Mobile applications untether physicians from workstations and help them document from any location. And virtual assistants are revolutionizing patient care delivery, and give clinicians the option to choose the speech-enabled workflow that best meets their current need. So, while these are tough issues, these technologies are bound to positively affect both physician and patient satisfaction.

Q: What's on the horizon for you?

PP: It is a very exciting time for speech recognition and related technologies in

healthcare. We are accelerating innovation in our top-ranking conversational AI platform to meet market need and drive the 3M and M*Modal mission of creating time to care for physicians. Moving further along this continuum of ambient speech-driven clinical workflows, the goal is to make clinical documentation a by-product of the patient-physician encounter and not yet another administrative task for the physician to complete.

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