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    According to a Sage Growth healthcare C-suite survey, more than seven in 10 (71%) healthcare executives believe it is still too early to determine the long-term cost savings and revenue increases promised by AI technologies. Despite this uncertainty, AI investment in healthcare is projected to grow significantly, from $20 billion in 2024 to $150 billion over the next five years.  

    While the broader implications of AI in healthcare remain uncertain, specific applications such as ambient listening technology are already significantly enhancing healthcare practices. 

    MGMA Stat - May 21, 2024 - 28% of medical groups use ambient AI technology to transcribe speech or draft notes.

    A May 21, 2024, MGMA Stat poll found that just under three in 10 medical groups (28%) report using ambient AI technology to transcribe speech or draft notes, while most (69%) do not and another 3% of respondents were unsure. The poll had 424 applicable responses. 

    When asked about their experiences using ambient AI technology for transcription or note creation, medical group leaders who responded to this week’s poll shared a variety of opinions on the experience of implementation and clinicians’ reactions to the new workflow: 

    • Many respondents noted that their providers were pleased with the time savings around documenting visits, especially using platforms that help create summary notes. 
    • Several practice leaders noted they are still in a pilot phase with this technology, generally with positive results thus far; however, some respondents did share some clinician dissatisfaction around certain transcription results and the need for close review for quality/accuracy. 
    • Among respondents who said they are not using ambient AI technology, their reasons included: 
    • Waiting for their existing EHR platform to add this functionality 
    • Having organizational policies that specifically limit the introduction of AI tools pending internal evaluation 
    • Being in the process of an EHR transition or merger/acquisition that eventually enable them to use a new platform with similar functionality for transcription and note creation 
    • Waiting out an existing contract for similar services with another vendor. 

    Where ambient technology makes a difference 

    In a recent MGMA webinar, "Sight Unseen: Unveiling the Magic of Ambient Assist in Your Specialty Practice," Kristi Bolinger, director of specialty solutions, and Bob Murry, PhD, MD, FAAFP, chief medical officer, NextGen Healthcare, explored the impact of AI listening technology in practices.  

    Addressing physician burnout  

    High administrative burdens frequently are cited as worsening the widespread issue of physician burnout. Long hours spent on documentation and administrative tasks can leave physicians feeling overwhelmed and exhausted, leading to decreased job satisfaction and a higher likelihood of burnout. The webinar highlighted how ambient AI could play a crucial role in reducing these demands and mitigating burnout.  

    "Burnout leads to behaviors in physicians, and the most common is seeing fewer patients, which directly impacts practices and businesses," Murry noted.   

    By automating notetaking, ambient AI helps providers maintain a better work-life balance, manage their patient loads more effectively and focus more on patient care rather than spending countless hours on paperwork. Murry emphasized, "There is no question that it saves me time. I was using voice-to-text for documentation before this, and it's even faster than that. It allows me to concentrate on the patient and the conversation."  

    Streamlining administrative tasks  

    Ambient AI technology can significantly reduce the administrative workload for healthcare providers by automating the documentation process.   

    "It saves time and mental energy, allowing providers to concentrate on the patient and the conversation," said Murry. By reducing the time spent on documentation, ambient AI frees up physicians to spend more time on direct patient care, enhancing the quality of the healthcare experience for both patients and providers.  

    Murry further explained, using an example from the mock patient-physician interaction demonstrated during the webinar. "I don't need to record or write down the fact that [the patient’s] A1C was 5.4 or five months ago — that's going to show up in the note and the details of her cough."   

    The ability to automate routine tasks also helps alleviate some of the pressure on healthcare providers, he added, ultimately leading to a more productive and satisfying work environment.  

    Enhancing patient-provider interaction  

    Ambient listening technology aims to improve the quality of patient-provider interactions by automating documentation, enabling doctors to maintain eye contact and engage more fully with their patients.   

    Murry shared feedback from one user of the technology, Dr. Christopher Wixon, Savannah Vascular: "When in the exam room, I don't have to take notes; I can just listen and be present. When I go back to document, I don't have to relive the visit in my mind.”  

    Murry said that one of the best functions for him is having the patient plan available more quickly. “You can get that plan into patients’ hands much sooner with this kind of technology because you don't have to type it.”  

    He added that physicians can better focus on understanding their patients' concerns without the distraction of notetaking. "I also noticed that ambient AI … forces me to say more things out loud," Murry explained. "So, I will say, ‘Here are the things going on, these are the tests we’re going to do, here’s what you can do to make yourself feel better,’ and it captures all that."  

    Bolinger agreed that ambient listening technology enhances the physician-patient relationship. “There have been times when I've talked with doctors,” she said, “and before they started using ambient, they wouldn't even enter into certain aspects of the [patient] conversation because they felt like they didn't have time.”  

    Bolinger continued, “So, just the idea of having something taking the notes for you—that is huge, and you can actually have an extremely thorough chart note at the end of the visit.”   

    “I think this is really transformative technology,” Murry agreed. “It’s a game-changer.”  

    Flexibility and facilitating workflow integration  

    Murry said that the flexibility of ambient AI technology allows it to be integrated into existing workflows. Providers can customize the level of detail in the notes, standard phrases or procedures, adapting the technology to fit their documentation style.  

    "One of the biggest advantages of this technology is that it can be adjusted to meet the specific requirements of different specialties and individual providers," Murry noted. This customization ensures that the AI can support a wide range of medical practices, from routine check-ups to more complex procedures, as well as various clinical settings, from large hospital systems to small private practices.   

    By integrating seamlessly into existing systems, he added, ambient AI can streamline documentation processes without disrupting the established workflows of healthcare professionals.  

    Best practices for integrating ambient AI technology  

    The speakers offered practical tips for both healthcare providers and administrators on how to effectively integrate ambient AI listening technology into their practices.  

    Tips for providers:  

    1. Set realistic expectations: Understand that the AI does not do everything perfectly. It aims to save time and mental energy, but you still need to review and edit the notes.  
    2. Add medical reasoning: Be prepared to supplement the AI-generated notes with your medical decision making (MDM), as the AI won't capture all nuanced reasoning.  
    3. Experiment and adapt: Try the technology with different types of encounters to see where it works best and where more manual intervention might be needed.  
    4. Maximize advantages: Utilize the tool to reduce computer time during patient interactions and say more details out loud to ensure they are captured accurately.  
    5. Workflow integration: Adjust your workflow to incorporate the technology effectively, such as reviewing charts and setting agendas before patient visits.  

    Tips for administrators:  

    1. Proactive implementation: Ensure that answers to security, privacy and regulatory questions are known and communicated to providers to avoid initial resistance.  
    2. Collaborate with compliance: Work with the compliance department to address concerns early on and avoid letting these concerns hinder the implementation of the technology.  
    3. Set proper expectations: Communicate clearly that the AI will not do everything but is a valuable tool to save time and improve efficiency.  
    4. Patient feedback: Gather feedback from patients to understand their experiences and use this to support adoption among providers.  
    5. Adoption strategy: Avoid pushing the financial aspect upfront. Allow providers to experience the benefits first, which can naturally lead to them advocating for the technology's continued use.  
    6. Support and training: Provide adequate training and support to ensure providers can use the technology effectively and understand its capabilities and limitations. 
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