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What to look for in an AI scribe tool

Medical Economics JournalMedical Economics November 2023
Volume 100
Issue 11

The right product can reduce staff and clinician burnout, but it needs to include a human element

Chat AI image on computer screen ©Supatman-stock.adobe.com


The public release of ChatGPT last year was a catalyzing event for technology, launching artificial intelligence (AI) into the hands of the general population, easily accessible, and for free. AI was quickly applied to every imaginable space and problem. In the rush of experimentation, we have learned that AI can do many things, but there are also plenty of things it is not ready for. As progress with AI continues, recognizing its strengths and weaknesses is crucial in deploying new solutions with the greatest efficacy.

AI will never replace human doctors, (at least not anytime soon), but there’s room for it alongside providers. The most effective tools are designed with a specific problem in mind. So what problem is AI trying to solve in health care? Burnout.

A survey by Wakefield Research in 2021 reported startling numbers. Of the staff surveyed:

  • 50% of administrative staff reported that their volume of manual data entry had increased
  • 89% of clinicians reported needing to consult multiple systems to access patient data
  • 36% of clinicians reported they spend more than half their day on administrative tasks
  • 91% of clinicians agreed that solving administrative processes was an urgent need

Additionally, 99% of health care executives surveyed stated that they thought AI was a valuable resource for helping solve the administrative challenges facing providers. They’re right. Ultimately, AI is a cost-saving tool that handles the minutiae of health care so that providers can focus on patients. To save costs and time, you need to have a comprehensive technology strategy in place that allows you to roll out new solutions over time without disrupting existing workflows.

AI scribe solutions are one of the easiest technologies to deploy into existing workflows. While an avalanche of automatic scribe services have hit the market in the last few months, AI simply isn’t good enough to parse natural speech into a properly formatted clinical note yet. At least, not without help.

What truly differentiates the solutions on the market is expertise in documenting a clinical encounter behind the development of the technology. Trustworthy AI tools across the health care industry are largely the same, built on the same AI and natural language processing engines, robust language models, and data integrations. AI is the next step in reducing burnout and human error, but it also needs a human touch to keep it on track. AI tools should augment and amplify the efforts of trained scribes, not replace them.

Be wary of technologies that either don’t use a human element, or don’t obviously claim that they do. Companies that overcommit to technical solutions often lose the human touch altogether, causing poor delivery, management, and customer service, because they rely entirely on digital resources. What you make up for in savings on fully automated scribe solutions, you pay for in quality, from the outset. Digital only solutions surprisingly have a longer deployment timeline than hybrid solutions.

Some solutions will claim to be fully automated but rely heavily on human intervention. To involve qualified medical scribes requires strong staffing infrastructure. Many technology-first companies struggle to manage large-scale staffing and may not be able to grow with your needs. You want your AI technology partner to be capable of hiring, training, and retaining highly qualified scribes, year over year.

Here’s what to look for when you’re picking an AI scribe solution:

Keep humans involved Look for AI solutions that are reviewed by real, trained scribes before hitting your EHR. This combines all the strengths available to you. Rapid translation of audio recordings into notes, reviewing for errors, medical knowledge, and a personal touch that helps overcome the greatest technology hurdle: trust.

Make workflows easier A good technical solution doesn’t disrupt your existing workflow. It’s easy to learn, easy to use, and customizable to your preferences. Scribe services that dump a wall of text into your patient records aren’t helpful, and they may end up leaving you with more work reviewing the record than if you had written it yourself.

Tailor the solution Ahigh-quality AI Scribe solution will be tailored to your EHR specifications. Your work is not mass-produced. Your solutions shouldn’t be either. The technology you land should either be designed with your specific use case in mind or be highly adaptable. An AI scribe solution should be able to handle your specialty or method of care delivery right out of the box.

AI can make a huge difference with asynchronous scribe work that allows providers to keep moving without losing the immediacy of the session’s information. Adding scribing solutions statistically makes a big difference in productivity, accuracy, and burnout reduction. The best solution on the market is the one that enables your staff to function at top-of-license, doing the work that matters most.

Vadim Khazan is executive vice president of Speke of ScribeAmerica

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