How providers are using AI to automate administrative work and reduce burnout

Healthcare providers are buckling under the administrative burden associated with electronic health record (EHR) systems. Allergists and immunologists are no exception. In addition to documenting patient visits, allergists and immunologists must deal with high volumes of prior authorizations and paperwork needed for biologic agents that can transform the lives of patients with conditions like severe asthma.

During a recent Becker's Hospital Review webinar sponsored by Nuance, Robert McDermott, MD, allergist and immunologist with Allergy, Asthma & Immunology of the Rockies in Colorado, and founder of Healing Intelligence Network, discussed how allergists, immunologists and other specialists can leverage technology to combat employee burnout in their practices.

AI-powered technologies restore the human connection to medicine, while reducing administrative burden

Solutions that integrate with the EHR can eliminate the need to type or dictate into the system. Allergy, Asthma & Immunology of the Rockies, for example, recently implemented DAX by Nuance at its offices in Colorado.

"DAX has been a huge help," Dr. McDermott said. "The AI technology listens in the background to the natural conversations that we have with patients and then handles the documentation. It enables us to connect with people more effectively because we aren't distracted by documentation."

Before deploying DAX, Dr. McDermott waited until after patient visits to complete documentation. "It's a sacred moment when you can connect with people, but then I had to spend up to two hours at the end of each day finishing documentation. If healthcare providers don't have tools to handle documentation efficiently, they often feel that they are fighting a losing battle," Dr. McDermott said.

In response to burnout, physician practices are turning to AI

In 2021, Dr. McDermott polled his providers, PAs and another physician that works with him to find out how much time they spent documenting in the EHR each day, as well as their level of burnout.

"They all felt extremely burned out and they were devoting at least one and a half hours per day to documenting in the EHR at the end of the workday," Dr. McDermott said.

According to Dr. McDermott, to get the organization out of the burnout trap, he and his team have focused on three elements:

  1. Psychology tools to improve mindset
  2. Physiology tools to enable people to take better care of themselves
  3. Technology tools and AI to streamline work

"This approach has really helped us," Dr. McDermott said.

After implementing DAX, Dr. McDermott conducted another poll. Employees felt much better and were only spending 30 minutes on documentation at the end of the day.

"I think DAX leads to better patient care. Nuance reports that 70 percent of providers that implement DAX feel reduced symptoms of burnout," Dr. McDermott said.

"Healing intelligence" tools support the clinical diagnosis and treatment of allergies

Physicians recognize that a patient's verbal and nonverbal cues are crucial to the accurate diagnosis of conditions. "I refer to technology like DAX as healing intelligence or HIQ," Dr. McDermott said. "It removes distractions. If you aren't paying attention, you will miss what the patient is trying to say. Fully engaging with allergy patients is a huge part of the healing journey."

Many EHRs also include background checker tools which automatically evaluate drug interactions and allergies. These AI-powered solutions create a second set of eyes for doctors.

Technologies like DAX benefit patients, providers and the bottom line

Lower levels of burnout translate into decreased employee turnover. "Burnout is a huge financial risk. The cost to replace a physician is massive, but so is the cost of having a burned-out provider see patients. Those encounters can lead to unhappy patients, increased risk of malpractice suits and greater difficulty in collecting the patients' financial responsibility," Dr. McDermott said.

DAX streamlines documentation, which reduces burnout and also generates higher-quality EHR data. This simplifies prior authorizations for allergists and immunologists. "Comprehensive documentation makes it easy to justify the level of service we are providing to patients," Dr. McDermott said.

In addition, research conducted by Nuance found that DAX saves seven minutes per encounter, so many healthcare providers have added as many as three more patients to their schedule each day.


While some providers are hesitant about incorporating AI into their daily workflow, Dr. McDermott feels optimistic about the responsible use of this technology in healthcare.

"Artificial intelligence will never replace the physician-patient relationship because moments of vulnerability require human connectivity. However, AI-powered technologies enable us to filter data, reduce the burden of documentation and support processes like scheduling. Looking ahead, I believe that AI will continue to generate data that we can use to better serve patients."

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