Artificial intelligence leading the way in EHR interoperability

While EHRs are not created equally, an interoperable EHR that can accurately handle administration, data management and patient relations can serve as an asset to clinics.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is opening up new possibilities for Electronic Health Records (EHRs). Physicians have largely regarded EHRs as a time-wasting hindrance, but fortunately advancements in automation have increased the technology’s utility value. While EHRs are not created equally, an interoperable EHR that can accurately handle administration, data management and patient relations can serve as an asset to clinics. The forecast for EHRs is finally starting to change, and AI is leading the way.

Addressing Patients Virtually

AI-enabled EHR technology has become especially beneficial during COVID-19, as physicians are now tasked with engaging a growing patient population virtually. This is partly because virtual solutions have yet to find a way to replicate the triage process which can introduce data concerns without proper technology. During triage, patients speak with the administrator, nurse, and doctor—all of whom collect data independently. But rather than speaking with admins and nurses, telehealth patients are immediately connected to the provider.

Although having a direct connection to the health care provider can be ideal for patient efficiency, it can also make it more difficult to properly obtain and manage data. Providers relying on standard meeting services or legacy technology are forced to manually enter the data into their EHR, then hope their existing tools and remote administrators can handle billing appropriately. Conversely, an EHR equipped with AI can handle the back-end data entry automatically. This not only helps physicians provide better short-term care, it also allows them to see more patients in a reduced timeframe. Time not spent on data entry can be used to promote better care outcomes.

Managing Low Acuity Patients

Telemedicine was initially created for low acuity care, but it didn’t receive widespread adoption until the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Even though the technology was stagnant for decades, telemedicine has now become a critical component for managing cough, cold, flu and more. To address a growing patient population with dwindling provider availability, AI is helping to bridge the gap between patient need and provider time.

By including AI in EHRs, lower acuity patient can be treated at home, these patients no longer risk contracting COVID-19 while seeking treatment, and they receive more convenient care at a time that works for them. Because telehealth can be made available during off hours, low acuity patients don’t need to plan their day around visiting their doctor. They can schedule a virtual appointment at a time that works for them. With AI managing the back-end of low acuity care, providers can also hop on a meeting, treat their patients and immediately see another patient without hesitation.

Although these patients are being deterred from visiting in-person clinics due to the dangers of catching the COVID-19 virus, AI enhanced EHRs makes it possible for them to receive quality treatment nonetheless. This also comes at a benefit to providers. Before the pandemic, providers were less likely to generate low acuity revenue because people were treating themselves. Now, telehealth options make patients more likely to engage with their primary providers to help diagnose and resolve symptoms.

While telehealth is providing patients with at-home, socially-distanced access to a physician, AI is also sending automatic reminders to help them stay on top of their treatment. The platform lets them know when to take their medication, when to rest and when to contact a live physician.

Successful AI Integration

AI integration in EHRs can improve the clinical workflow for both patients and physicians, but it needs to be implemented properly for best results. A successful AI integration provides clinical teams with the correct decision-making data based on their current patient populations. This data explains where patients are in their care lifecycles and lets providers know if they’d benefit more from telemedicine or from in-person treatment.

It’s also key to remember that AI is meant to reduce the number of non-essential tasks required by staff. If clinics find their teams spending even more time on data entry or administration, it’s best to reevaluate. AI is meant to be a benefit, not a roadblock to patient care. However, the most important component of successful AI integration is interoperability.

A great example of AI interoperability can be found at COPE Community Services in Tucson, Arizona. Because this behavioral health care clinic already had an interoperable network of IT solutions, it was able to instantly implement a robust telehealth offering when COVID-19 struck. The pandemic made it necessary for clinics nationwide to integrate telehealth quickly—which is no easy task in an industry known for slow adoption of technology, but COPE’s strong interoperability put them ahead of the curve. Cohesive and AI-driven technology enabled COPE to become one of the few clinics that didn’t lose revenue during the onset of COVID-19.

“During the first months of the COVID pandemic, clinics were reporting 65-70% loss in billable hours, but COPE’s billing actually increased,” said Rod Cook, CEO of COPE. “COPE is one of the few organizations that can say that, and our EHR’s interoperability is one of the main reasons.”

Society was ill-equipped for the AI revolution before COVID-19, but the adoption of AI in health care is advancing little by little, day by day. Practices that are learning and adjusting are poised for more favorable long-term outcomes than clinics that aren’t positioned to manage the ongoing crisis. AI is a key driver of societal change, and the health care industry is one worth watching.

About the Author

With more than 20 years of experience in health care, Khalid Al-Maskari is considered a thought leader by peers in the integrated health care field. As CEO of Health Information Management Systems (HiMS), Khalid rapidly grew the company from a single, Tucson-based customer to achieve a multi-state presence. HiMS is headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona and designs Electronic Health Records (EHR) software that transforms the integrated health care experience. HiMS creates innovative solutions that lead to better outcomes, lower costs and higher-quality care. The company sets itself apart from its competitors by harnessing the power of artificial intelligence to improve data discovery and extraction and personalize treatment recommendations. Khalid can be contacted at kmaskari@hmsfirst.com