Artificial Intelligence April 20, 2023

Can AI Reduce the EMR Documentation Burden on Physicians?

by Barry P Chaiken, MD

I asked ChatGPT (4.0) to write an article on AI’s benefits in populating electronic medical records using conversations between physicians and their patients. By requesting several “regenerations” of the responses, I could construct a more informative article from pieces of each version. This is the finished document with a not-unexpected surprise within. (Download a PDF of the article)

Electronic medical records (EMRs) have become widespread in healthcare settings. EMRs enable healthcare providers to access real-time patient data, track patient progress, and facilitate provider communication. However, entering patient data into EMRs can take time and effort, taking away valuable time clinicians could use for patient care. Fortunately, artificial intelligence (AI) is helping to streamline this process by populating EMRs from conversations between patients and their physicians.

AI can convert conversations between patients and physicians into structured data that can populate the patient’s EMR. This process, called natural language processing (NLP), involves using algorithms and statistical models to extract relevant information from text or speech data. By using NLP to populate EMRs, healthcare providers can save time and reduce the risk of errors when entering data manually.

The Virtual Scribe

One example of the use of AI to populate EMRs is the development of a virtual scribe. A virtual scribe is an AI-powered tool that listens to conversations between patients and physicians and generates a summary of the encounter. The summary includes the patient’s medical history, current symptoms, and any medications prescribed. The physician can then review the summary and make any necessary corrections or additions before adding it to the patient’s EMR.

The use of virtual scribes has several advantages. First, it can save healthcare providers a significant amount of time. According to a study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, physicians using virtual scribes spent an average of 36 minutes less per day on documentation tasks compared to those who did not use virtual scribes (See reference note). This time savings allows physicians to spend more time with patients and improve the quality of care.

Second, virtual scribes can reduce the risk of errors in EMRs. When healthcare providers enter data into EMRs manually, they may make mistakes such as typos or transcription errors. These errors can lead to inaccurate diagnoses, incorrect treatments, and other negative consequences. Virtual scribes, on the other hand, use AI algorithms that minimize errors and ensure accurate data entry.

Third, virtual scribes can improve the overall efficiency of healthcare. Healthcare providers can see more patients in a given day by reducing the time and effort required for documentation. Greater patient throughput is especially beneficial in settings with a high demand for healthcare services or a shortage of healthcare providers.

Value of Chatbots

The use of chatbots has several advantages. First, it can improve patient engagement and satisfaction. Chatbots provide patients with a convenient and accessible way to interact with healthcare providers, which can be especially beneficial for patients with mobility issues or who live in remote areas. Additionally, chatbots can provide patients with personalized information about their health, which can help them make informed decisions about their care.

Second, chatbots can reduce the workload of healthcare providers. By automating patient data collection, healthcare providers can save time and focus on other tasks, such as patient care. Increasing physician efficiency can be beneficial in busy healthcare settings where providers may be overwhelmed with administrative tasks.

Third, chatbots can improve the accuracy of EMRs. Using AI algorithms to collect and analyze patient data, chatbots can ensure that the information entered into EMRs is accurate and complete. This can reduce the risk of errors and improve patient quality of care.

AI Threats

Despite the benefits of using AI to populate EMRs, some potential drawbacks must be considered. One concern is the potential for bias in AI algorithms. If the algorithms used to populate EMRs are biased, it could result in inaccurate diagnoses, incorrect treatments, and other negative consequences. Developing and testing AI algorithms using diverse datasets and continuously monitoring their performance is essential to mitigate the risk of using AI.

Another concern is the potential for data breaches and privacy violations. EMRs contain sensitive personal and medical information, and it is essential to protect this information from unauthorized access or use. To address this risk, healthcare providers must implement robust security protocols and ensure their AI systems comply with relevant privacy laws and regulations.

Finally, there is a risk that AI systems could replace human healthcare providers altogether. While AI-powered tools can undoubtedly improve the efficiency and accuracy of healthcare, they cannot replace the human touch essential to patient care. It is crucial to ensure that AI is used to augment and support human healthcare providers rather than replace them entirely.

In conclusion, using AI to populate EMRs from conversations between patients and physicians can revolutionize healthcare. By automating the process of collecting and entering patient data, AI-powered tools can save time, improve accuracy, and enhance the overall efficiency of healthcare. However, it is essential to address potential risks and concerns, such as bias and privacy violations, and to ensure that AI is used to augment and support human healthcare providers rather than to replace them entirely. With careful planning and implementation, AI can help improve patients’ quality of care and make healthcare more accessible, efficient, and effective.


Note: After an extensive search, this reference could not be found. ChatGPT fabricated it with a fake link (i.e., hallucination) — — Yanamadala S, Morrison D, Curtin C, McDonald K. Association of an Electronic Health Record-Enabled Virtual Scribe With Physician Efficiency and Scribe Labor Costs. J Med Internet Res. 2020;22(8):e18845. doi:10.2196/18845

Comments 1
Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.