It may seem like an oxymoron to say that artificial intelligence can restore humanity to healthcare. Generally speaking, the idea of task automation is associated with lost jobs in manufacturing. But in the sphere of healthcare, where it can literally be a matter of life and death, technology must supplement the work of highly skilled physicians who are often spending more than their fair share of time performing mundane administrative tasks. In the current state of the healthcare industry, labor has become a more scarce resource and thus expensive. This combination of factors leads to concerning new trends such as physician burnout and, as a result, increased potential for negative patient outcomes and less humanistic care. New and novel technologies bridge the gap.
Physician burnout is a serious problem in healthcare, with 63% of U.S. physicians reporting signs of burnout including emotional exhaustion and depersonalization at least once per week. This is nearly a 20% increase in the last decade, attributable to the combination of the labor shortage and the pandemic, the latter of which contributed to widely publicized mass exodus of clinicians. Physician burnout can contribute to even greater costs than what’s on the surface. A report indicated that primary care physician turnover alone led to roughly $979 million in excess healthcare spending. In short: the cost of burnout goes well beyond a potentially bad employee review on GlassDoor.
There’s a dystopian fear that physicians could eventually be replaced by technology, but that’s the exact opposite of what healthcare needs. Technology, in fact, can help us to avoid the robotic, “next patient-up” style of care that could take hold if the current trends aren’t curbed..
So what can AI solutions do to help physicians get ahead and spend more time with patients/on patient diagnosis and treatment?
It’s no secret that physicians spend an overwhelming amount of time on administrative tasks. According to a study from Porter et al., a physician would need a 27-hour work day to effectively discuss and act on guidelines with all patients. Radiologists report spending up to 78% of their day writing notes and reviewing medical records while they are simultaneously expected to analyze an image every three to four seconds.
AI solutions are known for their ability to automate, but perhaps no automation is greater than those that help physicians cut through the mundane, but necessary, administrative tasks. Here are a few ways in which AI can reduce the administrative workload for physicians:
The overarching goal of development in the field of healthcare AI should be to improve patient care. Decreasing physician burnout may directly improve patient outcomes by creating an environment where physicians feel empowered, recharged and confident in the impact of their work. From the reading room to the primary care physician’s clinic, the goal is to leverage the power of augmented intelligence, thereby enabling physicians to spend more time interacting with their patients rather than behind a computer screen.