Physician burnout is one of the most serious conditions in today's medical profession. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality defines the condition as "a long-term stress reaction caused by emotional exhaustion [and] depersonalization," among other factors. According to the American Medical Association, physicians suffer from considerable stress caused by facets of their job that have little to do with actually providing personalized patient care. The AMA reports that physicians spend up to six hours daily working with electronic health records (EHRs) to adhere to government and hospital documentation requirements. That's six hours not spent seeing patients, and thus not having the time to listen carefully and diagnose, empathize, hold a hand, speak with family members, or explain conditions and next steps.
A surge of new healthcare products from wearable consumer health trackers to diagnostic algorithms promising to improve medical outcomes and costs with artificial intelligence (AI) is prompting physicians and hospital executives to ask a fundamental question: "Are these technologies solving the right problems?" Two ongoing developments add scale and urgency to this important question. The first is a virtual gold rush of technology vendors looking to stake a claim in the healthcare IT market, which is projected to top $390 billion by 2024 according to research firm MarketsandMarkets. The second is what the World Medical Association is calling a "pandemic of physician burnout," caused by a staggering workload of electronic paperwork to document patient care and which is required for insurance coverage, financial reimbursement, and medicolegal liability protection. More than half of clinicians report feeling burned out from the hamster wheel of documentation and reporting tasks that often require spending two hours at a computer for every hour spent in patient care.
Dr. David C. Rhew, global chief medical officer and vice president of healthcare at Microsoft and an adjunct professor at Stanford University School of Medicine, is steeped in the healthcare industry. When he speaks, people pay heed. Healthcare IT News interviewed him ahead of the big HIMSS20 conference and exhibition, asking him to put his finger to the wind and discuss the most pressing trends affecting healthcare that HIMSS20 attendees need to keep top of mind. He did not disappoint, identifying three major trends and challenges facing the industry right now. According to the World Health Organization, a "swift upward trajectory" of global health costs is resulting in an increase in domestic healthcare spending and out-of-pocket expenses.
Nuance Communications unveiled an artificial virtual assistant specifically for patients and healthcare providers on Wednesday. The company has built artificial intelligence virtual assistants for consumer and automotive brands including American Airlines, Amtrak, Audi, Barclay's, BMW, Citi, Delta, Domino's, FedEx, Ford and GM. Nuance's new Dragon Medical Virtual Assistant is designed to streamline a variety of clinical workflows for the 500,000 clinicians that already use Dragon Medical for their clinical documentation, the company said. Based on the Nuance Virtual Assistant platform, the software can enable conversational dialogues and pre-built capabilities that automate clinical workflows. The healthcare virtual assistant includes voice recognition technology designed for healthcare, voice biometrics and text-to-speech, EHR integrations and strategic health IT relationships, a prototype smart speaker customized for healthcare use-cases and a secure platform.
Tech giant Microsoft is teaming up with Nuance Communications to use technology to solve a big pain point for doctors--too much time spent on documenting and administrative tasks. The two companies are collaborating to use ambient technology combined with artificial intelligence, automation and cloud computing to create an exam room experience where the clinical documentation "writes itself," the companies said in a press release. Physician burnout continues to be a significant problem in healthcare. A recent study shows that primary care doctors now spend two hours on administrative tasks for every hour they're involved in direct patient care. Physicians reported one to two hours of after-hours work each night, mostly related to administrative tasks.