Leveraging AI to relieve physician stress in turbulent times

During an overnight shift, a critical care physician treats a pulmonary embolism patient. Several days later, he is asked why he didn’t note in the chart that the patient also suffered from acute respiratory failure. His response: “I was busy saving a patient’s life at 3 a.m. – taking care of all the things that need to be done such as oxygen intubation and positive pressure ventilation. While I was aware of the patient’s breathing problems, I was not really worried about missing a diagnosis like hypoxemia in my clinical notes.”

With such scenarios considered typical, it’s not surprising that more than 40% of U.S. physicians are burnt out – and those bureaucratic tasks top the list of factors contributing to this unrelenting stress, according to a Medscape report.[1] In addition to taking an emotional toll, burnout negatively affects finances, with each case of burnout costing healthcare organizations (HCOs) between $500,000 and $1 million, according to the American Medical Association.[2]

“Stress has become a serious issue for physicians in recent years,” said Robert Budman, MD, CMIO, Nuance Communications. “First, physicians have to navigate how to get their clinical work done in a busy day. On top of that, there are administrative burdens placed on them by the government, insurance plans and employers. And then, there’s simply the crush that they are feeling with their workload being exacerbated by COVID-19.”

Getting down to root causes

HCOs can no longer turn a deaf ear to the problem. “Having a way to deal with stress and promoting wellness is every organization’s responsibility,” he noted. While HCOs can help workers short-term by hosting massage sessions and ice cream socials, they can address the root causes of stress in the long run by zeroing in on operations and workflow.

“With some artificial intelligence [AI] technologies, HCOs can alleviate worker stress by anticipating nursing or ED staffing needs or predicting the turnover of beds. These AI technologies help with the nuts and bolts of running a healthcare business,” Budman said.

HCOs can also use AI to help address clinical documentation frustrations. Physicians often fail to note all secondary diagnoses, chronic conditions and comorbidities while treating patients, simply because the time required to comprehensively document at the point of care is overwhelming.

Missing diagnoses, however, can result in decreased reimbursement – or set off a stressful series of events. For example, when missing a diagnosis, physicians are often queried several days or weeks later and then forced to go back into the EMR and review what happened in a particular case to update clinical documentation.

CAPD provides substantial support

A workflow-integrated, AI-driven computer-assisted physician documentation (CAPD) system enables physicians to focus on patient care by providing unobtrusive guidance as to what information needs to be included to ensure clinical documentation integrity.

“With this AI technology, it’s possible to address the documentation edicts emanating from governmental bodies and insurance companies,” Budman said. “Physicians simply receive AI-generated advice that enables them to produce clinical notes at the point of care very quickly, avoiding the stress involved with having to do so downstream.”

In addition, AI-driven CAPD makes it possible to capture the severity of illness, ensuring that providers receive the right reimbursement for all inpatient and outpatient care delivered. “If a doctor sees a patient for diabetes and congestive heart failure and forgets the patient’s chronic renal failure or severe debilitating arthritis, that is going to affect the accuracy of the medical record and the billing,” Budman pointed out.

“Having clinically relevant expert advice right there at their fingertips and being able to add it to the note in less than 30 seconds can help physicians produce the documentation needed to receive proper reimbursement, while also improving workflow and alleviating stress,” he said. “Eliminating extra tasks like reviewing queries in the in-basket or dealing with a full email inbox days later is always a win for providers.”

To learn more about how AI can reduce physician burnout through automation, click here for information.

About Nuance Communications, Inc.

Nuance Communications (Nuance) is a technology pioneer with market leadership in conversational AI and ambient intelligence. A full-service partner trusted by 77 percent of U.S. hospitals and 85 percent of the Fortune 100 companies worldwide, Nuance creates intuitive solutions that amplify people’s ability to help others.

[1]. Kane, L. 2021. ‘Death by 1,000 cuts’: Medscape National Physician Burnout & Suicide Report 2021. Jan. 22. https://www.medscape.com/slideshow/2021-lifestyle-burnout-6013456.

[2]. Berg, S. 2018. How much is physician burnout costing your organization? American Medical Association. Oct. 11. https://www.ama-assn.org/practice-management/physician-health/how-much-physician-burnout-costing-your-organization.

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