Revolutionizing the physician experience and patient safety with AI-based clinical applications— 4 Qs with 3M's Joe Stadther

Artificial intelligence has the potential to revolutionize healthcare. User adoption and acceptance, however, are critical to widespread application. 

Becker's Hospital Review recently spoke with Joe Stadther, vice president of the clinician solutions business at 3M Health Information Systems, about artificial intelligence and how it is driving incremental innovation in clinical applications.

Note: Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Question: There is little doubt that AI can drive innovation in healthcare, but do you find that clinicians are eager to adopt this technology?

Joe Stadther: Physicians don't purchase AI per se; they use solutions that are enabled by it. For example, AI is widely used to support speech recognition applications. The key to user adoption is building confidence. With speech recognition, every time a user corrects an error, the system learns and doesn't make that mistake again. 

I think that clinicians are eager to adopt AI, but they need to feel confident. One way to build that confidence is by laying out well-defined stepping stones that help them be more efficient. What’s more, clinicians on the leading edge of medicine tend to be very interested in the leading edge of technology. That drives their interest in partnering and moving forward with solutions that bring AI into their existing workflows and the systems they are already using.

Q: Can you provide some real-life examples of how AI is used and the problems it is solving?

JS: As I mentioned, speech recognition is an application that's been widely adopted and accepted in healthcare. 3M HIS is a major provider of speech-driven, physician-assistive solutions. By taking speech understanding to the next level, we have introduced physicians to solutions like computer-assisted physician documentation which uses AI to analyze the clinical note in real time to deliver proactive insights to clinicians as they document, in order to close care gaps, address missed documentation opportunities and other best practices that will lead to better documentation and better patient care.

The next frontier is ambient clinical documentation using conversational AI. It will completely transform the patient-doctor interaction and ease the documentation burden on physicians. Our goal is to automate the capture of documentation in the EHR, freeing physicians to focus on the patient. 

Q: The biggest complaint we hear from early adopters of emerging technology is that the technology needs to adapt to the user and not the other way around. What are your thoughts? 

JS: It's very important that we keep the user experience at the core of what we do. If users don't enjoy using the technology, they will abandon it. We need to make sure we design solutions that reflect what physicians need, rather than what we think they need. That’s why 3M HIS actively seeks input from clinicians and uses that to improve the user experience. It is critically important and something we're completely committed to.

Q: How can we expand on these speech and AI use cases in healthcare?

JS: Speech enables a touchpoint with physicians that may not otherwise be there. There are a number of insights we can deliver through speech recognition and the data it creates to aid in patient care. One application we're particularly excited about is called 3MTM M*Modal Follow-Up Finder. This technology looks through radiology reports that are both structured and unstructured to identify incidental findings and clinically significant information, and flag cases for follow-up by care coordinators. 

We’re excited about this technology because if there's a recommendation, but no action, that's a potential patient safety problem that we can address. Hospitals are also excited about this because it reduces the risk that they will forget to communicate important information to patients. 3M has some great beta customers testing the solution right now. It can save lives by closing critical care gaps and ensuring follow-up on these incidental findings is not overlooked.

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