A closer look at AI utilization with electronic health record systems

Optometry Times JournalJune digital edition 2024
Volume 16
Issue 06

Ambient listening and transcription provide promising impact on the patient care experience.

Doctor viewing EMR on laptop Image Credit: AdobeStock/terovesalainen

Image Credit: AdobeStock/terovesalainen

Artificial intelligence (AI) is now everywhere—not just in our day-to-day lives but also in the rapidly evolving landscape of health care technology. It is making significant strides in creating efficiencies at home, in the car, in schools, and at our doctor appointments. In the health care space, with the promise of enhancing the efficiency of clinical documentation in our electronic health record (EHR) systems, it can have a significant positive impact not only on the quality of patient care but also on the satisfaction of its doctor users.

Until now, AI in optometry existed only as a concept that would elevate the eye care experience, based on its success in other health care settings. Recently, Barti Software, an optometrist-built EHR company, released an AI software update that integrates ambient listening and transcription technology, marking a pivotal development designed to reduce the charting burden on optometrists and improve the patient intake experience. Research has shown that AI transcription in eye care can work; with cautious implementation, it may even enhance patient care.

Clinical documentation: A catalyst for clinician burnout

It is no secret that an optometrist’s experience with charting can make or break their overall satisfaction at a practice. With most practices seeing 2 to 3 patients in an hour, an efficient EHR is a crucial component in fighting clinician burnout and creating more quality time for patient conversation. Unfortunately, many clinicians find EHRs to be nonintuitive and cumbersome, with some even referring to the process as “death by a thousand clicks.”1

The importance and benefits of patient-doctor eye contact are supported with previous studies that have found that the use of scribes in the exam room is associated with decreased documentation time and has resulted in significant improvements in productivity and job satisfaction for physicians.2 These findings underscore the importance of streamlined documentation processes when mitigating clinician stress and burnout. Patients are not oblivious to these inefficiencies, either! They also notice that their doctor’s back is turned to focus on the chart, adding more stress to the experience. Time spent on data entry takes away from eye contact, interferes with the natural flow of a conversation, and can ultimately impact a patient’s real and perceived quality of care.2

Imagine this: you get to focus on conversation and eye contact with your patient as your documentation appears thanks to an AI scribe. This is something most of us never could have imagined from an EHR a few years ago, but it is something here now that is improving the doctor-patient relationship in the health care setting, with optometry being the next to benefit.

Ease of integration in health care: A case study with Permanente Medical Group in Northern California

A practical example of AI’s impact in a health care setting can be seen in the deployment of an ambient AI technology, Nabla Copilot, by Permanente Medical Group in Northern California. This system was introduced to approximately 10,000 clinicians in October 2023 and utilized in over 300,000 consultations. Within just 10 weeks, the adoption rate of this technology soared to 34%, emphasizing the technology’s effectiveness and ease of integration into existing workflows.3 In other words, AI is a natural and welcomed integration for any clinician since it only requires the clinician to be able to click a button in the EHR to activate it. The use of AI scribes significantly reduces the time doctors spend on EHR documentation, giving the control of quality time back to the doctor, especially outside of regular working hours and during patient visits.

Quantifiable benefits of AI in health care

The adoption of AI in clinical documentation has shown to reduce the time doctors spend on charting by approximately 2 hours per day. This not only alleviates the administrative burden but also allows physicians to increase patient consultations by up to 30%, according to some reports. Additionally, the precision of AI-generated text stands at over 95% accuracy, as deemed by health care providers, with the resulting charts being 2.5 times more detailed compared with those created through manual entry.4

Improved patient interaction and increased focus on patient care

AI transcription technology has opened the doors for enhanced clinician-patient interactions. Clinicians can maintain better eye contact and engage more effectively, as they are no longer bogged down by the need to manually enter data. This shift not only improves the quality of the consultation but also enhances patient satisfaction—81% of patients reported that their physicians seemed more focused on them due to reduced distractions.3 Even when we think about patient satisfaction, we inherently know that if a patient feels that the focus is on them, we are more likely to have that patient for life.

Moreover, this technology contributes to better clinician work-life balance, with 90% feeling less pressured by time constraints.3 The additional time salvaged not only allows for more thorough patient interactions but can also help in alleviating provider burnout, ultimately leading to the welcomed result of improved patient care.

Myopia management and AI technology

As a practice owner who focuses on myopia management, I can already foresee the tremendous benefits of AI technology in charting for my younger patients. AI transcription would allow the provider to maintain eye contact with the patient and their family while discussing myopia risk factors and treatments during an initial consultation. A proper consultation would involve asking a series of questions to gauge the patient’s myopia risk and proper treatments based on genetics, lifestyle, and social activities. The eye contact now allowed while acquiring this massive amount of data with an AI assistant helps build trust and promotes patient confidence as the provider helps them understand the importance of beginning a myopia treatment. Also, keep in mind that these treatments can be very costly and are most often not covered by insurance, making it that much more important to incorporate practices that build patient-provider trust. By ensuring that our focus remains on the patient rather than the computer screen, optometrists can help the patient and their family understand the long-term benefits of managing their myopia early, thereby easing their concerns about the investment in treatment and making the experience more informative and less transactional.

Concluding thoughts

As AI continues to integrate into various aspects of health care, it is already transforming traditional primary care practices in a substantial way. AI transcription technology, such as Barti Software’s EHR, diminishes the burden of administrative duties and improves the overall quality of patient care and provider satisfaction within optometry. I hope to see AI act as a catalyst for advancements and continued progression in the optometry EHR space.

1. Tajirian T, Stergiopoulos V, Strudwick G, et al. The influence of electronic health record use on physician burnout: cross-sectional survey. J Med Internet Res. 2020;22(7):e19274. doi:10.2196/19274
2. Tierney AA, Gayre G, Hoberman B, et al. Ambient artificial intelligence scribes to alleviate the burden of clinical documentation. NEJM Catal Innov Care Deliv. 2024;5(3). doi:10.1056/CAT.23.0404
3. Mishra P, Kiang JC, Grant RW. Association of medical scribes in primary care with physician workflow and patient experience. JAMA Intern Med. 2018;178(11):1467-1472. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2018.3956
4. Gliadkovskaya A. Medical AI scribe startup Nabla rolling out tool to the Permanente Medical Group docs in Northern California. Fierce Healthcare. October 9, 2023. Accessed May 20, 2024. https://www.fiercehealthcare.com/health-tech/medical-scribe-startup-nabla-rollout-tool-kaiser-permanente-docs
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