Could AI help solve the healthcare workforce crisis? A company thinks so

As Covid-19 continues to exacerbate a nationwide shortage of healthcare workers, healthcare systems are experimenting with different ways to maximize strained human resources, including technological solutions.

A company that works with healthcare systems thinks AI could help alleviate current workforce issues. John Frownfelter, The CEO of Suwanee, Georgia-based artificial intelligence company Jvion said AI can actually improve the efficiency of the practice of medicine. [Also link to Jvion tag] [Removed Dr.; he’s an MD but not practicing. Not finding a MedCity archive for Jvion. Just 1 article from Frownfelter. Linked to the Jvion site below to avoid linking “out” up high.]

AI has been heavily hyped for years, but now, in the midst of the pandemic, achieving operational efficiencies has become a new emergency in cash-strapped and understaffed hospitals. Thus, new efforts are underway to leverage AI for industry-wide transformation.

Among its myriad applications, AI can be used to do clinical documentation so doctors can spend more time interacting with patients and less time checking patients into the EHR. AI can also be used for decision support – to analyze many different raw data points and help physicians make better care decisions in less time. This enables physicians to understand and see patients more holistically, even during a short visit.

“We’re increasing their time by helping them see patients faster and more completely,” Frownfelter said.

Cleveland University Hospitals partners with Jvion on several initiatives. One is to use AI to detect subtle changes in patients, undetected by checking vital signs, that predict their condition will deteriorate, said Dr. Maulik Purohit, deputy director of medical information and responsible for clinical innovation for the transformation of university hospitals.

This allows doctors to intervene before a patient’s condition worsens. It’s not only better for the patient, “it also reduces the burden of having to provide additional care because something was missed,” Purohit said.

And there are other ways AI could save clinicians valuable time to safely optimize human resources. One is the automation of patient data entry given that there is ample evidence that physicians spend an excessive amount of interacting with a patient’s electronic health record. The second is that AI is able to highlight the condition of a patient clinical, behavioral and socio-economic risk factors to suggest best practice interventions that would address these factors. This can focus and shorten a medical visit while improving results.

But AI can’t do everything. The answer to the problem of human resources in hospitals still lies in people. For example, teaching hospitals are tackling health worker shortages through a program called Helping Hands, where non-clinical staff are paid to help with things like moving patients or restocking supplies to free up clinical staff time, Purohit explained.

Essentially, AI works as a support, not a substitute for clinicians, he said.

“It’s really about the combination of the technology, people and processes that (allow you) to achieve maximum results,” Purohit said.

The combination of human and technological resources, as Purohit explains, is important and not an overall reduction in the number of people working by leveraging AI. Low clinical staff-to-patient ratios, like the crisis-level shortage of nurses, remain a danger for all.

“The goal is not to reduce the clinical staff to patient ratio, but rather to use staff and other resources in the most clinically effective and efficient way possible,” Frownfelter emphasized.

As an example, he cited Jvion’s prescriptive intelligence, which helps prevent unnecessary admissions and readmissions by identifying at-risk patients and recommending targeted interventions.

Frownfelter argued that to relieve the workload of clinicians while continuing to provide high quality care, you need artificial intelligence. “It’s not the only answer,” he said of AI’s role in healthcare staffing. “This is, I believe, a key part of the solution to this problem, which is not going away.”

Photo: Adam Calitzis, Getty Images