Burnout Busters: How AI streamlines medication reconciliation and prescription renewal workflows


Administrative burden is a major cause of clinician burnout, which in turn can lead to low employee satisfaction and have a negative impact on patient safety.

The good news: Effective solutions are in sight. During a March Becker's Hospital Review webinar sponsored by DrFirst, a leader of medication management solutions, Colin Banas, MD, chief medical officer at DrFirst, and Raj Naik, MD, medical director of informatics at La Crosse, Wisconsin-based Gundersen Health System, discussed how artificial intelligence and automation can alleviate clinician burnout and cognitive overload by streamlining medication reconciliation and prescription renewal workflows.


Misspent time is a core contributor to clinician burnout

Time spent on low-value, clinically irrelevant, repetitive or redundant  tasks — along with in-basket overload — accelerate clinician burnout. In Medscape's 2021 National Physician Burnout & Suicide Report, which included perspectives from more than 12,000 physicians across 29 specialties, "too many bureaucratic tasks" was the top cause of burnout, with 58 percent of respondents citing it as a contributing factor. While digital transformation is critical for ensuring that healthcare delivers seamless experiences for clinicians and patients, technology also can contribute to elevated clinician burnout. To counter those negative effects, Gundersen has adopted a "digital sensitivity" concept. "Digital sensitivity embraces the concept that you can't just throw technology out there — you need a good understanding of how the technology is going to serve the patient's needs and be received by end users, so they can adopt it, access it and have the training and education to use it appropriately," Dr. Naik said.


Medication reconciliation and renewal processes are ripe for digital transformation

Medication reconciliation and prescription renewal workflows are plagued by missing, incomplete and unstructured data, which results in a need for time-consuming manual entry — the type of repetitive and redundant nonclinical tasks that contribute to burnout. These data mismatches typically occur "in transit" when medication-related data crosses interfaces, such as providers' EHR systems and pharmacies. This also creates an administrative burden for pharmacy informatics teams, who often must draw up mapping tables for unmatched prescription instructions (known as "sigs") in order to dispense the medications.

As healthcare leaders contemplate digital transformation as a way to reduce cognitive and administrative overload, Dr. Banas encouraged them to consider how automation and augmented intelligence can help with the mundane, repetitive tasks.


Leveraging AI as a complement to the EHR can streamline clinical workflows

MedHxTM is DrFirst's tool for helping organizations gather medication history data, improve patient safety and reduce clinician burnout. MedHx

provides data that is:

  • Complete: MedHx delivers a medication history feed that taps into national and local data sources, including pharmacy benefit management systems and independent pharmacies that are part of DrFirst's e-prescribing network.
  • Clean: According to DrFirst's customer research, the use of MedHx, which employs patented AI technology to clean and organize medication data for enhanced readability and actionable clinical intelligence, led to an 86 percent increase in healthcare providers' capacity to prevent adverse drug events.
  • Consumable: MedHx uses patented AI to safely translate drug and sig information into consistent terms that can be pre-populated into discrete fields in the EHR, making the data readily consumable. This can reduce errors and the burden of manual entry; 94 percent of providers using MedHx spent less time gathering and confirming patients' medication lists.

"We're saving you clicks and keystrokes, we're saving you time — and most important of all, we're making the whole process safer for the clinician and the patient," Dr. Banas said.

He explained that DrFirst’s SmartRenewalTM performs a similar function for prescription renewals by "intercepting" and completing renewal requests with missing data before they reach the physician's in-basket. "It is one of the most elegant technology solutions that we've used because it's really doing that work before it ever gets to us as clinicians," Dr. Naik said.


Intelligent automation is emerging as a promising remedy to burnout

As patients' care and medication journeys become more personalized, advanced and supported by digital processes, health systems need to find ways to alleviate the burden of this added complexity for care teams. DrFirst’s collaboration with Gundersen to deploy MedHx and SmartRenewal demonstrates how intelligent automation can contribute to solving these burdens, especially as it relates to medication management in the EHR. Yet, effective and enduring solutions require capacity building for care team members and health leaders as well.

"It's not the technology itself that solves the problem — you have to really connect it to your people and processes to have ideal results," Dr. Naik said. He credited DrFirst not only for simplifying workflows that gather medication history and renew prescriptions, but also for highlighting opportunities to improve synergies between the people interacting with the technology and the processes that technology is applied to.

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