The Influence of Data, Analytics, and Artificial Intelligence on Healthcare Workflow

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Each year, the impact of technology on healthcare changes and deepens our reliance on these tools. 2019 has been no exception; our patients (and our doctors) use digital wearable devices, use of the virtual visit via telemedicine is increasing, and clinical decision-making is now influenced by our EMRs.

All this change has been difficult for some doctors to embrace, but the truth is, we’re just getting started. In 2020 you can expect the era of artificial intelligence (AI) to impact your clinical practice.

AI is Changing Medicine

The impact of AI and the algorithms that make up this branch of the computer sciences are going to change physician workflows in the future. Some say AI will revolutionize healthcare; others say it has a detrimental impact on the doctor/patient relationship. No matter your opinion, all signs point to a significant impact of these digital tools in healthcare beginning in medical school.

Today there is more data, and doctors feel the pressure of trying to read, comprehend and apply all the tools now at their fingertips. That’s the first place where AI can have an impact. A computer algorithm can cull the most useful information for a clinical reading list, and the hope is that this will allow doctors more time to interact with patients. Health IT Analytics says, “If we as humans have to spend less time doing the information gathering, in theory, that ought to give us more time to go back to traditional skills relating to empathy and compassion.”

In clinical practice, AI offers the possibility to improve some of the administrative burdens doctors and nurses face. While we’ve transitioned to digital tools like our EMR, compared to what AI could do, these platforms are clunky and counter-intuitive. Susan Reese, Director of the Kronos Healthcare Practice Group says, “We’ve created an electronic burden for workers like nurses by increasing the administrative burden through technology.” But AI and its machine learning algorithms can be applied to current technologies to improve them, streamlining workflows and making user interfaces more intuitive.

AI could also impact workforce management in healthcare. We’ve been collecting data on our healthcare workers for years. Now, AI tools could improve our ability to improve staffing and workforce and their future needs. AI-fueled analytics could help predict future staffing needs and workload requirements. This could impact everything from workforce utilization to patient satisfaction scores. AI technology could predict the number of staff needed, the patient volume, and even the types of patients seen—and what credentials should be on the floor to treat them. There are even predictions that these tools could suggest the best type of doctor to match a patient or simply be used to better coordinate care between providers.

But AIs Will Not Replace Our Clinical Teams

Given the difficulties inherent in adapting our workflows to EHRs over the past decade, it’s possible most clinicians would read this article and roll their eyes. Software vendors promised us that digital records would improve our efficiencies, but today most studies report they have not. However, AI does represent an entirely new way of computing that we simply haven’t seen before. It’s coming and doctors would do well to look at these changes with an open—and hopeful mind that these tools will improve our workflows and patient outcomes.

Talk to UHC Solutions about ways we can help your clinical efficiency with technology-savvy clinical teams ready to go to work in your FQHC.

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