Leading healthcare providers are implementing AI to improve patient and staff safety and quality, enabling them to achieve their technology innovation goals for better use of resources, with greater satisfaction.
Technological innovation has flourished over the past two years, driven by a rapid need for digital transformation and the shift to remote working. Although in the past, healthcare has generally lagged behind other industries in technology adoption, it is imperative that hospitals and healthcare systems move to the forefront of the innovation, so that they can act with agility to meet current challenges.
One of the key steps these groups can take to advance modernization and improve their practices is to successfully implement, run, and operationalize AI platforms on their networks.
Many healthcare leaders are hesitant to adopt new technologies due to safety and accuracy concerns. Others think they can’t afford such an investment without a guaranteed reward; however, hospitals have more to lose if they do not adopt advanced technological tools. Leading healthcare providers such as Novant Health are implementing AI to improve patient and staff safety and quality, enabling them to meet their technology innovation goals for better use of resources, with a greater satisfaction.
Benefits of Introducing AI in Healthcare
Reduces administrative burden
Healthcare systems today face the daunting task of tackling high levels of burnout among doctors and nurses. According to a Medical economics survey, 73% of physicians said they currently felt burnt out and 93% had felt burnt out at some point in their career. Retaining employees is extremely difficult, and losing staff means a heavier workload for those who remain. Leaders are keenly aware of the increasing workload of a physician and are constantly looking for ways to ease this burden.
On a day-to-day basis, nurses and doctors have effectively become data entry clerks and logistics personnel. Often, a large portion of nurses’ workdays are spent on regulatory documentation or finding needed equipment and medications. They only spend a fraction of their shift caring for patients.
Physicians and nurses are motivated to provide meaningful care and communicate with patients. AI and automation offer a way to streamline manual processes and time-consuming data entry tasks, allowing clinicians to give patients their full attention and deliver the best care possible.
Provides greater patient satisfaction
Consumers have become accustomed to the immediate conveniences offered by technological advances in other sectors, such as airlines, retail and banking. Healthcare is poised for a similar transformation of patient experiences using AI-powered tools.
These tools provide excellent logistics with better access and reduced wait times, as well as smoother in-person experiences for patients. For example, an infusion center may offer a “no wait” IV infusion experience, which allows patients to select appointment times from their phone. Upon arriving at the center, patients proceed directly to their infusion chair and bypass the waiting room altogether, improving the experience and avoiding risk for patients vulnerable to infection. This autonomy and convenience also makes patients more likely to keep their appointments, reducing no-shows that complicate infusion scheduling. After implementing an AI-powered capacity management solution, Novant Health saw significant improvements in patient experience, including a 43% reduction in average patient wait times.
Improves physician satisfaction
When hospitals advance their technology stack through AI platforms and machine learning, they also improve the ability of doctors to work with them. For example, surgeons can juggle block time across multiple hospitals, and AI systems can help coordinate those schedules. During Novant Health’s adoption of AI tools, the organization saw a 9% increase in the volume of “separator surgeons”, a marked increase in physician loyalty through technologically advanced planning.
Some predictive analytics tools alert surgeons and planners to unused block time, prompting them to release it rather than let an operating room empty. Surgeons can optimize their own schedule and make the operating room available to another who may need it for a last-minute operation, benefiting all parties involved.
Reduces medical errors
Time is running out in patient care. Healthcare systems using outdated systems risk wasting time as staff are faced with a significant amount of administrative work and necessary resources are underutilized. Additionally, the pandemic has exacerbated staff burnout and made strong performance difficult. Streamlining administrative tasks and optimizing patient scheduling allows staff to take scheduled breaks for much-needed rest and complete shifts on time and focus their efforts on patients. This improves the staff and patient experience and reduces the risk of medical errors, which ultimately leads to better outcomes.
Best practices for implementing AI
Building consensus among leaders
Healthcare system leaders must take several important steps when integrating AI into their organizations. First, they must develop consensus among the management staff. Leaders need to advocate for AI in their organization by showing how it can improve safety and quality of care by proactively addressing areas of concern. The CEO and Board are likely to support solutions that provide the safest, highest quality care for patients and staff, as well as those that reduce related costs and generate higher revenues through increased access to care.
It’s also critical to keep the CFO informed of all AI initiatives and their results, as they will eventually write the check. Instead of just focusing on ROI, show finance executives the ROI innovation to make it clear that the benefits of AI encompass not only improved metrics, but also an overall technological advancement that is attractive to the organization.
Select the right partner
Health systems often operate with the idea that, given their limited resources, they cannot take the risk of investing in advanced technologies. Usually the alternative is to create a proprietary solution, rather than finding an outside resource. However, harnessing the necessary analytics requires deep expertise in operations, data science, building scalable software, and the ability to change processes on the front line. This requires significant investment on its own and is extremely difficult for most provider organizations to set up.
Instead, hospitals and health systems should seek out capable partners who bring this expertise. Novant Heath’s Institute for Innovation and Artificial Intelligence uses AI to improve personalized patient care and builds on their collaboration with leading AI experts, helping them use cutting-edge technology to connect with patients, team members and the communities they serve.
Implement using a phased approach
Another key to successful AI implementation is to take a phased approach to each new AI effort. For example, instead of trying to implement the entire system immediately — which carries many compounded risks and can lead to failure without careful planning — leaders can start by launching a new AI program in a hospital or smaller facility to run a parallel process with existing systems. for at least 2 months.
Health systems can collect feedback from hospital staff, identify positives and opportunities for improvement, and re-evaluate before implementing them elsewhere. Additionally, the best way to measure success is through patient feedback. It is therefore necessary to have a process in place to collect patient feedback on their experience with planning and time spent in the clinic. At this point, any issues that arise can be resolved on a manageable scale. If everything goes according to plan and improvements are seen quickly, the implementation can continue on a larger scale.
Deploy enterprise-scale AI platforms
Ultimately, the goal will be to implement high-performance AI platforms across the healthcare system organization to bring many positive outcomes to all staff and patients. When considering new AI programs, viable platforms must have the ability to support an entire system, rather than a single solution, market, or service. After considering staff feedback and management priorities, leaders will be able to adopt the innovative new platform across the organization, benefiting all stakeholders and making error-prone manual processes a thing of the past. The platforms will also allow healthcare systems to grow as AI companies add more algorithms.
Dr. Eric Eskioglu is Executive Vice President and Medical and Scientific Director at Novant Health.
Mohan Giridharadas is the founder and CEO of LeanTaaS.
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