Easing point-of-care challenges with AI and other innovative solutions
Physicians are confronting a growing tangle of administrative duties, data-driven requirements, and documentation needs, all while striving to maintain high standards of patient care. Ben Scharfe, executive vice president at Altera Digital Health, believes integrating digital tools, like AI, with EHR systems can address these issues without increasing the clinical burden. In the following conversation, Scharfe explains how technology advances are equipping physicians with sophisticated tools and insights that enhance patient care and streamline their workload.
Q: Productivity and efficiency are challenges that healthcare organizations are facing every day. Why?
Scharfe: At the core of the productivity issue is the increasing demand for more detailed patient data at the point of care from stakeholders like government and commercial payers. The goal is to create a corpus of data to share across healthcare entities to reduce costs and improve patient outcomes. However, this well-intentioned push places a heavy load on physicians, who now need to document patient information more meticulously to accommodate risk-scoring models and increasingly granular requirements for diagnostic and procedural codes. And we're only seeing the start of it. The need for more data will grow, especially in areas such as social determinants of health.
These layers of additional complexity require physicians to provide detailed documentation for reimbursement and quality reporting, plus they need to manage and apply real-time data from CMS and insurance companies. Although some of this data aids in patient care, most providers feel it doesn't serve the immediate clinical encounter.
Q: How can technology help alleviate some of these pressures?
Scharfe: Artificial intelligence is a massive disruptor set to transform healthcare by enabling providers to focus more on patient interaction and care delivery. AI has the potential to automate much of the required data specificity. Ambient listening and other AI-driven documentation tools allow providers to engage in and capture more natural dialogue with patients. These technologies are evolving and can create semi-structured notes as a starting point.
However, AI’s real potential lies in its ability to further structure these notes for various stakeholders. It can connect the information—whether typed, dictated, or captured through ambient listening—to specific diagnostic and procedure codes without providers needing to navigate the complexities of particular codes. Beyond documentation, AI can enhance patient care by interfacing with information from payers, the EHR, or analytics platforms, bringing critical insights to providers, thus minimizing their need to manually sift through a patient's entire available history.
Q: How is Altera helping its clients to increase productivity and efficiency?
Scharfe: Currently, we're partnering with companies like Microsoft to integrate AI technology into the EHR system to simplify documentation. This integration will allow for more free-flowing, unstructured documentation and make use of tools like ambient listening without necessitating overly specific documentation. Our goal is to create a highly flexible EHR system while automating many specific documentation requirements.
Additionally, we're making some of the complex requirements of value-based care, such risk scoring data, more accessible within the EHR, reducing the need for providers to toggle between multiple systems to access information. Altera is leveraging AI to perform pre-visit chart reviews that identify gaps in care while also summarizing concerning trends and data.
We also offer a mobile EHR application, which is not a standard EHR offering. This app allows providers the flexibility to use a phone or tablet for dictation or documentation as they move between exam rooms.
Q: What other services or technology can help address these issues?
Scharfe: A compelling yet under-used service is chronic care management, reimbursable by Medicare and Medicaid since 2015, and some private payers. It involves monthly calls to patients with two or more chronic conditions, focusing on care plan adherence—medications, exercise, and diet—and offering crucial support and accountability.
Many provider organizations recognize its value but face implementation challenges due to productivity constraints. This is where Altera is partnering with organizations to offer licensed remote nursing and clinical care teams to handle these patient calls. Our approach integrates seamlessly, ensuring no disruption to existing care delivery, with the provider organization retaining billing control. It ultimately drives better outcomes for patients and providers.
Altera also offers managed services and hosting services to dramatically simplify the care organization’s business model, allowing them to focus on patient care while we handle the technology and infrastructure. As a software and technology company, we're dedicated to helping clients maximize their IT investments. We can augment an organization's IT and EHR staff, addressing the application configuration, provider needs, training, and underlying hardware infrastructure. Our team is skilled in keeping systems responsive and efficient, and we're quick to get things back on track if any issues arise.