Why Stanford expanded an AI co-pilot across the enterprise

Palo Alto, Calif.-based Stanford Health Care is expanding an artificial intelligence co-pilot to thousands of physicians to lighten their "cognitive load," a health system leader told Becker's.

Stanford said in March it planned to extend the use of the DAX Copilot from Microsoft's Nuance across the organization.

"When you look at what frustrates the physician, what causes burnout, it's just continuous interaction with PCs," Stanford applications chief Gary Fritz told Becker's

He explained how the DAX Copilot works: "When the clinician enters the exam room where the patient is, they set down their phone, press a button, and away it goes. So the physicians are able to focus really all of their attention on the patient."

The app records the patient interaction then generates a structured note that can be uploaded to the EHR.

Health systems across the country have been adopting DAX and similar tools to automate the previously arduous task of clinical documentation. Others have been hesitant about the technology because of the cost or difficulty of showing a return on investment.

Stanford has been piloting versions of DAX since 2021 — Microsoft acquired Nuance the following year for $19.7 billion — and in recent months felt the technology was ready to scale. Mr. Fritz said the tool has improved because it's constantly learning via generative AI.

"We've got a long history with it. So we understand really what the value prop is, and we understand where it works, and where it may need help," Mr. Fritz said. "It depends on what your ROI metrics are. But the way we're thinking about it is we believe we can reduce the amount of time that clinicians do administrative work, and we can do that in a way that reduces their task loads."

Stanford plans to offer the app to all its ambulatory physicians and advanced practice providers through the end of this year and into early 2025. Mr. Fritz expects about 2,000 to 3,000 of them to opt in.

While the health system hasn't published any research on the co-pilot yet, early results have been positive.

Of the physicians who've adopted it so far, 96% said it was easy to use. "I don't think I've ever seen that big a number ever on a technology that the physicians are directly interacting with," Mr. Fritz said.

Meanwhile, 79% reported that it made clinical documentation more efficient — "another number that's enormous," according to Mr. Fritz.

"The goal here is to take some of the cognitive load off of physicians," he said. "And it seems to be doing that."

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