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The strategic role of AI in empowering independent medical practices against industry consolidation


There’s no need to fear being replaced by AI.

artificial intelligence | © Production Perig - stock.adobe.com

© Production Perig - stock.adobe.com

Artificial intelligence (AI) has become all the rage, and offers valuable tools to many alongside the potential to affect livelihoods in negative and positive ways. The healthcare industry is no exception. Medical students have been dropping out in record numbers, and enrollment is down. But there’s no need to fear being replaced by AI. Instead, professionals should embrace how AI can help them up-level across industries.

Fear of change means it’s easy for some observers to hyperfocus on the risks of AI in healthcare. Yet AI also represents a powerful resource to reduce medical errors, aid in patient consulting, and improve healthcare outcomes.

If used responsibly, AI offers many potential benefits to the medical industry, particularly for independent medical practices. However, if we fail to leverage these tools and technologies appropriately, we can expect our fears to materialize.

How AI can support independent practices

Juggling business needs and administrative duties while still seeing patients is a burden physicians who own private practices face daily. As a result, these physicians sometimes neglect their calling to serve patients in order to manage the business needs of their practices. AI offers an opportunity for providers to leverage technology differently, allowing them to spend more time with their patients and concentrate on care delivery while still running efficient practices.

Patient management

Managing patients involves a substantial operational burden on healthcare staff, whether that be confirming appointments, calling patients for annual visit reminders, or managing incoming requests. AI presents an opportunity to not only automate these tasks but also tailor them to foster a more profound connection between healthcare providers and patients. These applications encompass automated and personalized messages to prompt patients in need of care to return to the clinic, address specific and actionable patient messages, provide patient education, and convey test results.

Streamlining claims

The arduous process of submitting claims to payers while having to navigate ever-changing ‚ and often obscure — requirements can be frustrating. AI holds the potential to ease the burden of this challenge significantly. Embracing the potential of AI could eventually enhance the efficiency and accuracy of revenue collection for practices. This would involve intelligent pre-submission claim reviews to verify accurate coding, auto-populating claims based on performed procedures, and managing rejections to simplify manual review and resubmission. Beyond operational expense reduction, AI has the potential to streamline revenue retrieval, thus bolstering the viability of independent healthcare practices.

Clinical notes and documentation

The demands of note-taking and documentation in healthcare have contributed to an ongoing issue: provider burnout. With the projected healthcare workforce shortage, there’s already a pressing need to alleviate the strain on independent healthcare practitioners. Once again, the solution could lie in AI. AI holds the potential to significantly alleviate the tedious process of recording essential patient visit details and the associated post-visit obligations. By intelligently automating the extraction of key patient visit elements, AI could generate requisite documentation, readily available for prompt provider review — a task easily accomplished even through mobile devices.

The risks of AI for medical practices

Of course, there are ways that the power of AI can be abused and used sub-optimally. This is true of any technology. The key is to be aware of the risks and to set up policies and a culture that is prepared to mitigate them.

AI integration

Integrating new systems of any kind is difficult. But when done correctly, with the guidance of expert AI developers and designers, the risks and potential inefficiencies can be effectively mitigated.

Training AI systems

Any good AI system will need training to do its job effectively. In this way, these technologies are similar to living systems. They need to be curated, shaped, guided, and placed in an environment that supports their functions. The professionals behind the latest AI operations support systems are well-prepared for this task.

Data collection

Data collection is a double-edged sword. It can be used to help patients, or it can be used to exploit a valuable resource. With appropriate and responsible AI integration, training, and use, the data you collect will be an asset to your practice as well as to those you serve.

The solution

The trajectory of independent medical practices in the face of industry consolidation can be decisively shaped by the strategic adoption of AI. As the healthcare landscape navigates AI’s transformative potential, it becomes evident that rather than being a harbinger of professional displacement, AI is a potent ally in fortifying independent practices. By judiciously integrating AI into patient management, streamlining claims processes, and alleviating the burdens of clinical documentation, practitioners can elevate their patient care while maintaining operational efficiency.

Acknowledging the risks inherent in any technology, and through meticulous AI integration, expert training, and responsible data practices, these independent practitioners can harness AI's capabilities to usher in a future where they not only endure but thrive, resisting consolidation and preserving the patient-centric essence of healthcare.

Andrea Kowalski is Senior Vice President of Products at Tebra, a leader in practice automation solutions for independent healthcare practices. In 2021, Kareo and PatientPop merged to form Tebra, and Andrea enthusiastically accepted the opportunity to oversee the integrated Tebra product team. Andrea joined Kareo in 2018.

As Chief Technology Officer at Tebra, a leader in practice automation solutions for independent healthcare practices, Kyle Ryan is responsible for all areas of technology with a focus on the vision and strategy for Tebra’s suite of products and services.

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