How ambient intelligence improves the patient and provider experience

As health care technology and clinical documentation requirements become more complex, health systems must find ways to enable physicians to maintain a high level of quality in their documentation, while keeping their primary focus on the patient. Ambient intelligence solutions, built on natural language understanding (NLU), artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technologies can help.  

In an August Becker's Hospital Review webinar sponsored by 3M Health Information Systems (3M HIS), two leaders who support 3M’s clinician solutions, Travis Bias, DO, chief medical officer, and Daniel Engel, director of product management, discussed the drivers of ambient intelligence, where it is today and its ability to transform patient-provider interactions in the years ahead.

Four key takeaways were:

  1. Ambient clinical documentation can help offset the growing administrative demands on physicians. According to a time-motion study featured in the Annals of Family Medicine, for every one hour physicians spend delivering patient care, they spend two hours on documentation, order entry and administrative tasks. "In addition, numerous interruptions throughout the day that demand cognitive task-switching can negatively impact the physician stress level," Dr. Bias said. "Physicians are being asked to help capture the complexity of their patient population as part of the industry's transition from volume to value, but the documentation requirements can feel like a different language than what’s needed for patient care and communication."

  2. NLU and speech understanding solutions are the foundation for ambient intelligence. With more than 20 years of experience building and scaling health care-focused speech recognition and NLU technology, 3M M*Modal’s NLU engine powers various solutions that support physician workflows and medical coding. "We are leveraging our NLU engine to identify gaps in documentation in real time," Dr. Bias said. "Our nudges proactively try to improve physicians' efficiency by filling documentation gaps in the chart the first time around. We are automating some of those repetitive tasks, freeing clinical documentation teams to focus on higher yield targets and freeing physicians to focus on more complex tasks and patient care."

    3M HIS uses industry standard ontologies as a foundation for annotating doctor-patient conversations. “You have to teach the system to understand what is happening clinically with the patient and in the context of the medical record,” Engel said. “Not just that a note mentions heart failure, but that the patient has a history of a specific type of heart failure and is taking medications for this condition. Various labs and other data elements in the chart are related to what is being discussed in the doctor/patient visit today. That is what you need foundationally to build meaningful ambient intelligence.”

  1. Deployment of ambient intelligence is best when it is not handled as a “one size fits all” proposition. Because of the dynamics of patient care and clinician workflows, Engel explained that success with ambient solutions is an art as much as it is machine learning and big data science. Dr. Bias agreed, adding, “Change management and meeting clinicians at their state of readiness is critical. Patient care cannot stop to change technology solutions, so ensuring proper fit in the clinician workflow is just as important as the rate of automation.”

  2. Today, ambient clinical documentation solutions like 3MTM M*Modal Fluency Align involve human intervention – but will become increasingly automated in the future. "We want to bring our solution to that next stage of moving technology into the background," Engel said. "We think of ambient documentation as the ability to have a note created as a byproduct of patient care, where the technology is the one doing that creation."

    3M Fluency Align captures the physician-patient conversation, allows the physician to control the electronic health record (EHR) and patient record using natural speech and creates an accurate, structured note based on physician preferences. Today, a clinical documentation professional reviews the output from technology, making any necessary edits before physicians provide the final signoff, all within hours of the patient visit. However, that will change. "The goal is to present notes created by ambient technology to physicians in real time, but we get there by gradually increasing the coverage and quality of technology automation,” Dr. Bias said. “In doing so, the amount of required human intervention will decrease over time."

Ambient intelligence solutions are well positioned to help physicians increase efficiency, capture documentation and improve population-level outcomes while freeing up additional time for direct patient care and complex tasks. Learn more about 3M Fluency Align

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