How this country doctor embraced artificial intelligence

I guess you could call me a country doctor. In addition to serving as a chief medical officer and practicing in an office in a small New Jersey town, I co-own an independent family care practice with my wife Kerri in a converted barn situated in the rolling hills and fields of NJ’s “horse country.”

Artificial intelligence may be dominating conversations in Silicon Valley and college campuses, but you might be surprised to know it’s shaking things up here in the country, too. Recently, I’ve been introduced to a way to incorporate AI into my workflow, and it has transformed my practice as a doctor in just months.

I believe that ambient listening, an AI-driven solution that securely converts spoken patient/doctor conversation into a structured SOAP note, will revolutionize day-to-day work for many providers as they see patients. It might fulfill the promise that EHRs will allow computers to help providers do their jobs more efficiently. And, on a more personal level, I think it could be a partial answer to provider burnout.

According to the American Medical Association, about 63 percent of physicians report experiencing emotional exhaustion at least once weekly. The sheer volume of clinical documentation required for seeing patients can contribute to physician burnout. We know burnout can adversely affect patient care, leading to errors and reduced care quality.

Last fall, I began using ambient listening through a mobile app on my phone. With one tap, it listens to the whole patient encounter and then generates a note within 30 seconds that I can review and edit immediately or at a later time using voice-to-text. Plus, it’s fully integrated into my EHR; I don’t need to cut and paste.

The technology can convert any natural conversation into a note so “intelligently” and seamlessly that it forms the basis of my note for nearly all encounters, and for some visits, it does it all. The technology is sophisticated enough to remove any casual pleasantries, so visit notes remain focused on what is truly medically important. I don’t have to stay glued to the computer while seeing the patient, and I don’t have to jot down or remember details of the conversation to document later. Ambient listening also captures my care plan as long as I say it aloud. I take a moment to clearly state my thoughts and the next steps for the patient, and the AI accurately documents these for me, saving me time and keeping patients in the loop for their care.

Some EHR “accelerators” require special training, a significant adaptation of workflow, or just aren’t helpful enough to justify their use. I think ambient listening is broadly useful and will be widely adopted. In my practice, it allows me to save hours of documentation time. After quick review and approval, I can leave my office on time and spend quality time with my wife, kids, and pets on the farm – a boost for my mental health, job satisfaction, and effectiveness.

Some providers may feel hesitant about an artificial intelligence solution, but when it is well-integrated, secure, and makes it easy to document medical reasoning and analysis on top of basic visit details, ambient listening is AI’s first “killer app” for practicing providers. With AI on our side, we doctors can help keep communities healthy while safeguarding our own well-being. We can focus on patient interactions and the intellectual practice of medicine rather than wasting time and energy on mundane documentation.

Ambient listening is a powerful new tool that needs to be seen to be believed. After all, it won over this country doctor.

Robert Murry is chief medical officer, NextGen Healthcare. He brings to this position more than 20 years of extensive clinical experience and background in health IT. Previously, Dr. Murry served as the company’s chief medical information officer (CMIO) since May 2017. During his time as CMIO, he was the “voice of the physician” across specialties, product safety, and government/regulatory affairs. Before becoming CMIO, he was the company’s vice president of clinical product management, responsible for clinical oversight and workflow design.

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