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How can AI Streamline EHR Documentation?

According to a 2020 study, physicians spend an average of 16 minutes and 14 seconds on electronic health records (EHRs) per patient encounter, with chart review, documentation, and ordering taking a majority of time.This workload often extends beyond providers' workday, leading to documentation after hours, “pajama time”, where physicians spend an average of 1.77 hours daily on documentation.

Additionally, physicians overwhelmingly disagree that the amount of time spent on documentation is appropriate, with 58.1% expressing their dissatisfaction, according to a national study of U.S. office-based physicians by the JAMA Network.

What’s often referred to as documentation burden, is one of the biggest challenges of U.S. clinicians. These stats only tell part of the story. There are countless studies, think pieces, and testimonials from physicians themselves, detailing the impact and burden of clinical documentation burden since the widespread use of EHRs. 

Here at Elation, we’ve been humbly advocating and raising our voices to get U.S. policymakers, technology providers, and the wider industry to devote time and energy to understanding the barriers and resources required for overcoming these burdens that affect the well-being of both clinicians and their patients. 

At the same time, we’ve been paying attention to the AI revolution that’s been galvanizing the healthcare industry in particular. In order to get past the buzz and understand more concretely how automation and tools powered by AI can be used to serve clinicians without creating added burdens, we recently launched a survey among practices at Elation to get their insights and experiences with the tools, both AI and non-AI based, being used to reduce documentation burden today. 

Interestingly, the majority of respondents, 67.5%, have yet to try an AI scribe solution, and only 31% of respondents have tried non-AI approaches to reducing documentation burden, including dictation tools, human scribes, and templates. Yet, these respondents noted the top three perceived benefits of AI Scribe tools to be documentation time savings, higher provider job satisfaction, and improved patient focus.

One of the key findings among the 30% of clinicians surveyed who are already using an AI scribe tool, is that AI technology helps clinicians chart faster and more efficiently so that they can reduce the amount of time they spend on documentation and have more time to see more patients and spend more time on care coordination, thereby improving the quality of care. With these benefits, It’s not surprising that nearly half of respondents using an AI Scribe tool utilize it for 80-100% of their visits.

In other words, AI can help support clinician efficiency, which can lead to more focus on patients, less stress and burden around documentation. Many clinicians also reported the reduction in physician burnout and improved work satisfaction as a significant theme and the second most cited benefit.

As more and more clinicians dip their toes into using AI in medicine and as we learn more and more about the potential benefits of AI in support high-value care, especially with a more widespread transition to value-based care around the corner – it’s important to bring to the forefront, the clinician perspective and design tools that enable rather than block clinicians from doing what they do best. 

The advent of legacy EHRs has shown that new technologies are not necessarily a magic bullet for clinicians, and it’s crucial to encourage the adoption of modern EHRs and the development of new tools like AI in tandem with physician and patient needs. 

Andrea Zaczyk, MBA, is Elation’s Sr. Director of Product Marketing.

Leona Rajaee is Elation’s Content Marketing Manager. She received a MS in Health Policy and Law from UCSF and UC Hastings.