Health systems want tech to make work 'more human'

Healthcare delivery needs more humanity. Over the last 15 years, clinicians have been forced behind the computer entering data into the EHR during patient visits. Increasing patient volume and workforce shortages make it a challenge to deliver high-touch patient care without burning out clinical staff.

Is more technology the answer? Yes, but there are limitations.

"Access is our largest challenge in 2024 as we face significant healthcare demand in our growing Central Florida community," Brian Adams, president and CEO of AdventHealth Central Florida Division, told Becker's. "Ensuring there are providers to care for patients is paramount. One of the tools we are looking to further leverage is artificial intelligence to enable growth and lessen work intensity for providers."

Mr. Adams and his team are looking for ways to use thoroughly vetted and secure AI ambient listening so physicians and advanced practice providers can spend more time interacting and listening to patients.

"When used responsibly, effectively, and with our expert clinicians and technology teams guiding the process, new AI technologies can revolutionize healthcare in a way that benefits patients, their families and caregivers," said Mr. Adams.

Renton, Wash.-based Providence has been digitizing work and using innovative technology for several years, and in recent months increased programmatic applications for artificial intelligence and large language models.

"From a workforce perspective, one of the most exciting challenges for 2024 is figuring out how to help reduce our caregivers' administrative burden, increase clinical capacity, and restore the joy of practice using new technology," Greg Till, chief people officer for Providence in Renton, Wash., told Becker's.

Mr. Till thinks the transition will make a big difference in caregiver capacity. Technology is often considered impersonal, but leveraging it for the right applications allows clinicians to lean into more personalized connections with patients.

"While some might be concerned by the potential impact these new technologies will have, we see big opportunities to augment, assist and automate administrative tasks in an effort to make work 'more human'," Mr. Till said.

Kevin Mahoney, CEO of the University of Pennsylvania Health System in Philadelphia, told Becker's one of his most exciting challenges in the next year will be integrating technology to streamline care and improve experience. Penn Medicine is focused on advancing efficiency systemwide, and is looking for ways to reduce repetitive tasks in the clinical space. The system also wants to help providers "do more meaningful work" and practice at the top of their licenses.

"In some cases, we're learning how to use existing software better; in other cases, we're developing our own programs or automating processes; and in all instances, we're partnering with the staff to make these important changes," said Mr. Mahoney. "With these steps, we're positioning the institution for the future as the most clinician-friendly place to work in healthcare."

Joon Lee, MD, CEO of Atlanta-based Emory Healthcare, sees the need to accelerate the system's transformation as the healthcare landscape changes. Emory has made gains in reducing workforce turnover and boating the recruitment pipeline, but the gains are "quite fragile," Dr. Lee said, as the workforce still feels stressed. Emory will double down on investments in the patient-facing workforce in the next year.

He said "an overt emphasis on the impact of technology on the daily workflow and the administrative burden of individual frontline workers, has not been emphasized nearly enough in the past. Hence, we are investing more in comprehensive and 'passive' technology such as ambient listening, and not limiting it to just physicians, but exposing it to the broad spectrum of our workforce, especially the nurses."

Chicago-based CommonSpirit Health is also on a journey to pilot new technologies that could simplify and inject more humanity into healthcare delivery.

"CommonSpirit Health is a large and complex system and we strive to stay on top of emerging technologies," Shireen Ahmad, system director of operations and finance at CommonSpirit, told Becker's. "One challenge we have is addressing the complexity of disaggregated systems across multiple back office functions. An exciting approach we are testing is the application of AI to integrate and synthesize data for analysis and auditing."

The initial pilot has been limited in scope, but early reviews are positive.

"We are keeping an eye on the end goal, which is normalizing data and standardizing reporting across areas where we had been challenged in the past to help us make huge strides forward in understanding opportunities across the system," said Ms. Ahmad.

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