More than half of clinicians in the United States experience symptoms of burnout,1 a condition so pervasive that multiple leading healthcare organizations have declared it a public health crisis.2 Might artificial intelligence (AI) offer a solution to the problem?

Burnout: A Public Health Crisis

The electronic health record (EHR) is a major contributing factor to clinician burnout. On average, clinicians spend nearly 6 hours a day – more than half of the workday – carrying out tasks on the EHR. Rather than spending that time with patients, clinicians are burdened with documentation, billing, coding, order entry, system security, and other clerical and administrative tasks.3

Burnout manifests in several ways: emotional exhaustion, feelings of ineffectiveness, an inability to find meaning in work, and even a tendency to view patients and colleagues as objects rather than human beings. The cumulative effects are lower job satisfaction, higher turnover rates, increased alcohol and drug use, erratic performance, and decreased patient satisfaction.1

Revisiting a Prediction

Before the turn of the year, the editorial staff at Rheumatology Advisor predicted that AI would reduce clinician burnout, and there are signs that it may come to fruition.

One example is Massachusetts-based software company Nuance. Their AI-powered speech recognition technology captures patient encounters and securely documents information in the EHR.4

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Similarly, tech startup Notable created a wearable voice-driven app for the Apple Watch that combines AI and voice recognition technology to capture information from clinical visits. The technology can record office encounters and add laboratory and prescription orders. Clinicians simply strap on their device and speak naturally.5

Meanwhile, San Francisco-based Lightning Bolt promises to make physician shift scheduling easier by harnessing the power of AI. Using combinatorial optimization, the company’s AI identifies optimal on-call shift schedules for clinicians.6

Bottom Line

Chances are, clinician burnout will always remain a problem to some degree. However, as AI solutions emerge, these technologies should help alleviate many administrative tasks so clinicians can spend more quality time with patients. The end result: less burnout and better patient outcomes.

References

  1. Melnyk BM. Making an evidence-based case for urgent action to address clinician burnout. Am J Manag Care. 2019;7(2):12-14.
  2. Jha AK, Iliff AR, Chaoui AA, Defossez S, Bombaugh MC, Miller YR. A crisis in health care: a call to action on physician burnout. Accessed July 1, 2019.
  3. Arndt BG, Beasley JW, Watkinson MD, et al. Tethered to the EHR: primary care physician workload assessment using EHR event log data and time-motion observations. Ann Fam Med. 2017;15(5):419-426.
  4. Nuance Dragon Medical One. Nuance. Accessed July 1, 2019.
  5. An AI powered smart medical assistant. Notable. Accessed July 1, 2019.
  6. Dietsche E. Lightning bolt aims to reduce physician burnout through its AI scheduling software. MedCity News. October 14, 2018. Accessed July 1, 2019.