Artificial Intelligence Is Transforming IT for Small Medical Practices

by:
on May 25, 2018

Do you think artificial intelligence (AI) will run your small medical practice one day? That it’ll free up some decision-making time for you?

You’re absolutely right. In fact, most electronic medical records (EMR) solutions already include AI or plan to add it in their system workflow to make better-informed and more accurate clinical decisions.

AI has revamped the ways many industries operate, including the medical field. For instance, AI systems are already diagnosing skin cancer and eye diseases as well as human doctors. AI can be a critical tool for smaller practices and medical centers that may have a shortage of human expertise and technical resources.

AI is already here, and small medical practices must understand the current use cases, AI’s potential uses for their specialty and its potential benefits in order to offer patients the most up-to-date care and stay relevant in the field.

In this article, we’ll review the benefits of AI for small practices, and we’ll look at three ways small practices like yours can implement AI now.

Adopt AI to Step Into the Future of Health Care

The future of AI in health care is quite bright. The industry is predicted to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 40 percent between 2017 and 2024, with a focus on personal AI-based health assistants and medical imaging.

Adoption of AI in health care is also on the rise, as it helps solve many complex problems for physicians and patients. AI can also contribute to faster patient recovery, often at lower costs.

However, using AI does not mean replacing the physician entirely, at least not in the near future. Instead, it will enhance the physician’s medical and technical expertise.

An AI system can perform tasks that normally require human intelligence, such as decision-making. For small medical practices, AI can use patient data stored in EHR systems and patient portals to improve the quality of care, without being manually programmed to do so.

Small medical practices like yours are showing great interest in AI and machine learning-based tools to improve their business.

A recent survey we conducted indicates that the majority of small businesses—including health care providers—recognize the business benefits of AI and machine learning. A combined 81 percent of small business respondents agree that AI and machine learning are either beneficial or critical for their business.

Perceived Necessity of AI and Machine Learning by Small Businesses
chart showing Perceived Necessity of AI and Machine Learning by Small Businesses
The growing trend of AI adoption in other industries is also pushing health care organizations to transform their IT practices.

Medical practices and patients stand to benefit from AI in several ways, including:

  • Early disease detection in patients
  • Alternative recommendations for methods of diagnosis
  • Improved administrative efficiencies and practice productivity
  • Fewer medical errors
  • Warnings about future risks to a patient’s health

Now, let’s take a closer look at how AI is currently solving problems for patients and medical practices.

Intelligent Decision Support Systems (IDSS) Help You Follow Clinical Best Practices

Clinical decision support systems (CDSS) play a big role in health care. They help physicians diagnose diseases more accurately, and they ensure that clinical best practices are being followed in all treatments.

A nonintelligent CDSS warns the physician during a contraindication, and recommends an alternative treatment. Such decisions are often based only on clinical guidance and evidence-based rules from medical science.

However, with intelligent decision support systems (IDSS), the role of physicians is more supervisory in nature. IDSS is a decision support system that uses AI techniques and helps make decisions using intelligent behavior, such as learning and reasoning.

How IDSS benefits patients: The primary benefit to patients is enhanced safety through the use of IDSS. For instance, even if a physician does not notice an incorrect dosage or medication, an IDSS can easily spot incompatibilities and related errors in prescribed dosages and medications for the patient and raise an alarm. In addition, an IDSS implements patterns and rules for patients and raises warnings when those rules are not met.

How IDSS benefits practices: In IDSS, the AI decisions are usually final and the system will proceed unless the physician intervenes. The physician mostly supervises the treatment process and intervenes only during rare emergency circumstances, if required. Thus, IDSS saves a lot of time for the physician and the practice.

image showing doctors using ai aids for decision support
AI aids in better decision support (Source)

AI-Powered Chatbots Increase Patient Response Rates

A fast-growing application of AI in health care, which will see strong adoption in the near future, is intelligent chatbots. AI-based chatbots are the new disruptors in the medical industry, and they’re revolutionizing the way physicians and hospital staff interact with and treat patients.

How intelligent chatbots benefit patients: An intelligent chatbot can identify a patient’s needs and guide them to the next step of treatment, once it assesses and fully understands their symptoms.

Chatbots improve patient satisfaction because they’re user-friendly, interactive and available 24/7. They offer a better patient experience in the absence of a physician or customer support team, and patients may feel more comfortable disclosing information to a bot than to a person, even a physician.

Chatbots can also help patients book appointments and provide answers to their queries. What’s more, patients receive immediate assistance in just a few taps.

an ai chatbot in action
AI-chatbot in action (Source)

How intelligent chatbots benefit practices: Evidence suggests that patients prefer chatbots as a communication channel, so implementing this technology can help practices add and retain patients.

 Case Story: Brett Swenson, MDIn one instance, Dr. Brett Swenson, a physician who runs a concierge practice in Arizona, deployed a chatbot campaign for flu shots. He sent invitations to all of his patients, and experienced a 30 percent response rate, compared to 1 percent in previous years using other channels, e.g., email.

Patients also responded more quickly through the chatbot than through the other channels.

In addition to improving patient engagement, using chatbots as a communication method will also free up the time of medical staff.

AI-Based Virtual Assistants Provide Real-Time Support

Intelligent virtual assistants provide administrative support as well as real-time support and recommendations to physicians regarding patient treatment and diagnosis, and they’re gaining ground in health care.

Virtual assistants integrate AI and machine learning into decision support systems to leverage big data, voice recognition and natural language processing (NLP) capabilities.

They’re able to streamline a variety of clinical workflows within a medical practice and help exchange data such as patient health history, insurance details, demographic information etc. between stakeholders.

A growing number of EHR vendors are including virtual assistants with their solutions. For instance, Epic has partnered with Nuance Communications to integrate the Nuance’s AI-powered virtual assistant, Dragon Medical Virtual Assistant, with its Epic EHR solution. It helps manage patient appointments and enter patient vitals into flowsheets.

ai based virtual assistant helping with a medication order
AI-based virtual assistant in action (Source)

Similarly, athenaClinicals EHR users can employ NoteSwift’s virtual assistant, Samantha, for automated EHR documentation as a result of a partnership between the two.

How AI-based virtual assistants benefit patients: AI-based virtual assistants free up a significant amount of the physician’s, as well as the practice’s time, so patients will receive more focused and quality care. Thus, increased personal attention to patients results in enhanced patient engagement and satisfaction.

How AI-based virtual assistants benefit practices: AI-based virtual assistants possess conversational ability and are able to support the physician in recommending treatment options, messaging patients and answering routine queries. These assistants manage a lot of administrative tasks and can reduce physician burnout.

Secure Your Future by Putting the Right Systems in Place Now

AI-enabled machines are not going to completely replace human physicians. AI’s primary goal is to help physicians treat patients more efficiently, and it’s the next big step for the health care industry, so you can’t afford to ignore it.

To leverage the full benefits of AI:

    • Small medical practices that are satisfied with their current EHR system should find out what AI capabilities it has (existing capabilities, as well as those planned by the vendor in near future).

 

  • Small practices that are in the market for a new EHR solution, on the other hand, must consider which AI-based capabilities they would benefit from most, and evaluate vendors that offer them.

For a free consultation with a software advisor on the latest EHR software and patient portals, call us at (844) 686-5616. Or, to receive custom price quotes in your inbox, fill out this short questionnaire and we’ll email you the details.


Information on Gartner’s Top Technology Trends for SMBs Survey
Gartner conducted this survey in April-May 2017 among 699 U.S.-based SMBs, with more than 10 employees and annual revenue of less than $100 million. The survey excluded not-for-profit organizations. The qualified respondents are decision makers, or have significant influence on the decisions related to purchasing technologies for their organization.

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