CONTRIBUTOR

The integration of digital tools has become ubiquitous in health care, promising to enhance patient care and streamline operations. From electronic health records (EHR) to advanced diagnostic tools, these innovations hold the potential to revolutionize health care delivery.

Through enhanced efficiency and accuracy in health care delivery, personalized patient care, automation of routine tasks, early disease detection facilitated by intelligent systems, and improved resource allocation, digital tools are poised to revolutionize the health care industry, ultimately leading to better patient outcomes and experiences.

However, despite their intended benefits, the widespread adoption of digital tools has introduced unforeseen challenges—a 2023 study published in JMIR Human Factors found health care digitalization may also negatively impact health care professionals.

One paradox lies in the implementation of EHRs, which were originally designed to streamline documentation and improve patient care.

They have instead become a source of frustration for many health care professionals, with doctors spending excessive amounts of time inputting data, navigating cumbersome interfaces, and grappling with unresponsive software.

As a result, patient wait times are prolonged, and consultation times are shortened, undermining the efficiency they were meant to enhance.

Recent analyses have highlighted the extent of this issue, revealing that physicians dedicate significant time to EHR tasks, potentially underestimating the true duration.

Furthermore, there is a lack of differentiation between productive and inefficient time spent on EHRs, contributing to widespread frustration among medical professionals.

Punit Soni, CEO and founder of Suki AI, said rather than giving patients their full attention, clinicians must face a computer and type notes in the EHR to keep up with their overwhelming administrative responsibilities.

“This has led to widespread, ongoing issues of burnout in U.S. health care systems – with over 50% of clinicians experiencing related symptoms,” he said, citing a PubMed report.

He explained it’s well-known that EHRs don’t have a good reputation for usability or efficiency.

“However, they serve a critical role in ensuring patient information is available and accessible to make holistic treatment decisions,” Soni said.

Dr. Harvey Castro, a physician and health care consultant, also acknowledged digital tools in health care have brough about a multitude of benefits, ranging from enhanced efficiency and accuracy to personalized patient care.

“These tools are designed to automate routine administrative and clinical tasks, freeing up valuable time for health care professionals to focus on delivering quality care,” he said.

By incorporating intelligent systems, they hold the potential to detect diseases at an early stage, facilitating timely interventions and improving patient outcomes.

Moreover, the utilization of digital tools is expected to contribute to a reduction in error rates and the optimization of resource allocation within health care settings.

“However, while digital tools are designed to streamline health care processes, they can inadvertently increase administrative burdens,” he said.

Instead of reducing workload, these tools often require health care professionals to spend more time managing systems than focusing on direct patient care.

“This results in unexpected inefficiencies,” Castro explained. “For example, doctors must document why they went against the LLM and write more information on the chart, which adds time to their already busy workflow.”

When it comes to EHRs, he said doctors’ attitudes towards them are complex, reflecting both recognition of potential benefits and concerns about drawbacks.

On one hand, there is acknowledgment of the advantages offered by EHRs, particularly in terms of improved coordination of patient care through centralized access to medical information.

However, the reality of increased administrative tasks and the demand for intensive data entry can overshadow these benefits.

Castro added many physicians express frustration at the amount of time spent on administrative duties, which detracts from direct patient interaction and may ultimately impact the quality of care delivered.

As technology continues to evolve, addressing these challenges, such as implementing text-to-speech functionality to facilitate seamless interaction with EHRs, becomes essential in ensuring that digital tools truly enhance rather than hinder the doctor-patient relationship.

Castro said the implementation of GenAI technology holds immense promise in revolutionizing health care operations by drastically reducing the time health care professionals spend on administrative tasks.

“Through automation of data entry, analysis, and decision-making processes, GenAI has the potential to streamline workflow efficiencies, ultimately allowing professionals to allocate more time and attention to direct patient care,” he explained.

For instance, automated data entry systems could significantly minimize manual input errors, ensuring the accuracy and integrity of patient records.

Intelligent analysis tools integrated with GenAI can provide rapid insights into complex patient data, facilitating quicker and more informed decision-making by healthcare providers.

Furthermore, AI-driven decision support systems have the capacity to assist clinicians in navigating intricate clinical scenarios, offering valuable guidance and recommendations based on comprehensive data analysis.

“As GenAI continues to evolve and integrate into health care settings, its potential to optimize operational efficiency and enhance patient care delivery remains a promising for health care workers,” he said.

Soni said while there is a general concern that AI has the potential to take over jobs, this isn’t the case in health care.

From his perspective, AI is not only helping medical professionals get time back in their days but also streamlining workflows and giving them access to important information in real time to inform their care decisions.

“These digital tools act as an assistive layer to clinicians, saving them time on administrative tasks so they can focus on providing the best possible care to their patients,” he said.