Even though most healthcare leaders see the use of artificial intelligence (AI) as an essential skill for the future of their jobs, they often have other technological priorities for the next six to 12 months.
A Nov. 7, 2023, MGMA Stat poll asked medical group leaders to get specific about their top tech priorities, and it turns out that AI isn’t always top of mind:
- Most respondents (35%) reported EHR usability as their top priority.
- The second most common answer was patient communications and access (26%).
- More than one in five (21%) of respondents pointed to prioritizing their revenue cycle management (RCM) and/or billing systems.
- AI (13%) ranked fourth, ahead of only “other” (6%).
The poll had 424 applicable responses. [Editor’s note: The figures do not total 100% due to rounding.]
Several studies point to EHR use as a major factor in rising rates of clinician burnout, with six main EHR-linked causes of physician burnout noted in a 2022 study:
- Documentation and related tasks
- Poor design
- Overtime work
- Inbox alerts
- Alert fatigue.
While most of the respondents to the latest MGMA Stat poll did not specifically call out the mitigation of burnout as a specific goal of their work toward better EHR usability, several of the outcomes they are striving for would certainly take some burdens off providers and staff, such as fewer clicks or the streamlined management of portal messages and outside messages.
The most common responses about achievements they hope to achieve in the next six to 12 months in EHR usability were focused on improved interoperability with other systems, locations and partners. As one respondent told MGMA, there are efforts to ensure all the organizations clinics “fully utilize all the systems” available to them.
For some, it’s a matter of interoperability between nursing home and hospital EHR, or beginning the transition to a unified EHR throughout the organization. Other practice leaders noted they hope to improve electronic data sharing not just among physicians and other facilities, but also insurance companies and the improved functionality of quality reporting.
Insights from new Laserfiche-MGMA report
MGMA recently partnered with Laserfiche to survey healthcare leaders for their views on EHR and practice management (PM) systems to better understand their levels of satisfaction with these systems and the priorities they have for improvements in new platforms or integrations.
The findings of that work, documented in the free-to-download Intelligent Automation in Healthcare, point to a solid majority of healthcare leaders considering an EHR or PM system switch in the next five years, but rather a targeted approach to addressing cumbersome areas of their existing systems, such as authorizations, billing, record maintenance and/or scheduling.
The new report found that the top three desired improvements in EHR systems were:
- Better UI/fewer clicks/more user friendly
- Integration with other systems/compatibility
- Reporting capabilities/accessing data.
Download the full report for more findings around the top factors for investing in new integrations for automation and optimization.
Patient communications and access
A glut of post-pandemic patient communications, paired with the ongoing difficulties that healthcare organizations have had with staffing, have many medical group leaders focused on reducing the manual work of handling phone calls, portal messages, scheduling, check-in, checkout and the cadence of outreach for appointment reminders.
Practice leaders who responded to this week’s poll noted they are investing in new systems or seeking vendors to improve their patient communications to boost their experience and satisfaction to reflect well in online reviews; they also are hoping that a better digital front door with more functionality for patients to self-schedule and quickly work waiting lists for last-minute cancellations will result in fewer no-shows and empty slots throughout their providers’ days.
Multiple respondents told MGMA that — while they have specific goals to make improvements to those no-show rates or online reviews — they are paying close attention to their patient access metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) such as time to third-next-available appointment.
RCM and billing systems
Bringing in technological solutions often is done to automate tedious tasks or to achieve greater accuracy through the elimination of manual work prone to human error, and that was certainly the case among the practice leaders in this week’s poll who have specific goals over the next six to 12 months for their planned RCM and/or billing system upgrades, including:
- Better processes to ensure more accurate and timely payments
- Getting rid of A/R more than 120 days out
- More reporting, analytics and benchmarking of the revenue cycle
- Automated billing and processing.
The continued push toward automation or outsourcing in the revenue cycle management space reflects ongoing difficulties for medical groups in hiring key RCM roles amid a tight labor market. A recent Experian Health survey found that staffing shortages have had major impacts on RCM operations in healthcare organizations, yet only about 27% of their respondents said they’re looking at applying integrated AI to boost efficiency. Instead, the most common tactics have been increasing salaries, cross training and boosting worker incentives.
Buzz around use of AI might be the newest constant in healthcare alongside change, but the implementation of these technological tools still appears to be a longer-term effort for many medical groups, given that:
As noted in our Oct. 26, 2023, MGMA Stat data story, 2023 Leaders Conference keynote speaker Scott Cullen, MD, chief clinical officer of AVIA Healthcare, said that many healthcare leaders either don’t have the data scientist talent to build their own AI models or just remain cautious in how to approach these new tools.
“All the technology in the world won't have any impact until we've transformed the people and the processes, as well. ... I think the rate-limiting step now is not the technology — it's us," Cullen said during last month’s conference, adding that healthcare leaders are “at a disadvantage ... because it’s not been our area of expertise, and it’s not something that we really understand well enough yet to know exactly what we need, under what circumstances.”
Most of the healthcare leaders who responded “other” to the poll noted they specifically were focused on adding improved cybersecurity protections to their organizations for better stability, fewer interruptions and improved compliance.
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