"There's the hype cycle aspect that we all deal with, whether it's a new smartphone or a new car, or even a marriage," he says. "Initially there are high expectations, then you sort of ramp down to what it really means to be doing this, and you get into a groove where you begin to understand the reality of how people need to use this tool in their daily work as a hospital or provider. What we have to do as an industry is make sure we don't get stuck in the trough of disillusionment or on the peak of great expectations, but that we get our patients to the plateau of productivity."
Jain also sees the important distinctions.
"Whereas EHR was just an electronic form of the paper medical record, at least originally, to help documentation and billing, AI is a fundamental change in the way we do things. We don't want to lose sight of the fact that you can't just plop something like AI in and keep everything else the same. You have to transform the other parts," he says. "If all you do is put a new solution in place without understanding the impact on the other moving parts, we as an industry will lose. We have to think about transformation as more than technology. It is also people and process, perhaps even politics and governance. Where technology becomes an enabler, AI is the glue that connects all those things. It cannot be thought of in a vacuum.
"An example would be looking at the role that AI may play in assisting clinicians in interacting with patients and documenting their care. Today, studies show that for every hour of direct patient care, two hours are spent in desk and EMR work. With AI, clinicians should be able to spend more time interacting with patients, with insights being presented to clinicians in a contextually aware manner rather than having clinicians hunting and gathering data from complex EHRs to find patterns. That will change the way that medical assistants, clinicians, and care managers interact in the workflow—this newfound direct patient-facing time could be an opportunity for building relationships and reinforcing needed behavior change in some patients."
Mercy's Stewart says the EHR rollout called for a big, up-front investment and a flip-of-the-switch implementation that won't be necessary for AI.
John Commins is a content specialist and online news editor for HealthLeaders, a Simplify Compliance brand.