There’s no doubt that there are many advantages to electronic health records (EHRs). They can help providers get the most accurate information about patients, securely share health data, improve documentation, reduce medical errors, and improve prescribing.
Unfortunately, this handy technology has also seen its share of complaints. For example, EHRs help create enormous volumes of data, but providers are not always sure how to use, or even search, all that data. This can create frustration for providers and reduce the amount of time they spend with patients.
Now, experts are suggesting that combining EHRs with another emerging health technology, artificial intelligence (AI), could help solve some of the persistent issues with EHRs.
What is Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Healthcare?
In a previous blog post about AI, we noted that the term usually refers to computers and software that can imitate “intelligent” functions that are traditionally human, such as learning and problem solving. In healthcare, AI is usually used to analyze complicated data and reach conclusions without a human’s direct input.
One example of the practical use of AI is the increasingly popular virtual assistant (VA), such as the Siri or Alexa applications. These VAs can understand voice commands and complete tasks or perform calculations for the user.
When used with AI, a VA can “learn” the user’s habits or preferences over time to become even more useful and accurate. They may be able to understand natural language and exchange information with other smart devices and software.
How can AI help with EHRs?
Some AI developers are working to create intelligent EHR systems with built-in VAs. Ideally, these VAs would be able to perform background information gathering and analysis to make the patient data stored in EHRs more meaningful for providers.
An AI-using VA could search through the large amount of EHR data to find the most important information for the situation. AI systems can learn to recognize key terms and pull out data from clinical notes and other patient data. This can help clinicians get a more accurate picture of their patient’s health, diagnose and treat more accurately, and better prepare for an appointment.
Using a VA with the EHR could also help with more administrative tasks. With the integration of AI, clinicians could use a VA to make phone calls, place prescription orders, take notes, and better navigate the overall EHR. This can help support staff perform their tasks faster and more effectively. It could also use natural language processing to help providers capture notes, which may help them spend more time and attention on patients, not keyboards and screens,
At Yale New Haven Health, clinicians have seen great success from incorporating a VA, in the form of a digital scribe, into their EHR system. With voice recognition, the VA can assist with taking notes and pulling up patient information. This has helped providers devote more time to patient care and less on clinical documentation.
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