Doctors using AI medical scribes for clinical documentation are freed to focus entirely on patients

Clinical documentation has become a significant source of professional dissatisfaction for doctors, who spend hours in the EHR daily. In addition, entering data during visits makes it harder for physicians to communicate empathetically with patients. Could AI medical scribes alleviate the burden of clinical documentation? 

You’ve probably heard about AI medical scribes by this point. Also called “ambient clinical intelligence,” AI medical scribes are new software tools that use generative artificial intelligence to facilitate scribe-like capabilities in real-time. 

Most AI scribes use the physician’s smartphone microphone to listen to patient-provider conversations. The software then transcribes the encounter and extracts relevant information to write a structured clinical note in less than a minute. Examples of AI scribe products include DAX Copilot, Augmedix, and Conveyor AI.

Initial data shows AI scribes are effective

In 2023, Kaiser Permanente implemented a pilot study to gauge the effectiveness of AI medical scribes used by a multidisciplinary physician group in Northern California. Over 3,000 physicians used the ambient AI scribe for over 300,000 encounters. Researchers asked physicians about their experience with the tool and compared EHR workload metrics between users and non-users. 

Findings from Kaiser’s pilot study can help doctors understand the benefits and limitations of current AI medical scribes. 

AI medical scribes reduce ‘EHR pajama time’

As a specialty notoriously burdened by after-hours EHR time, primary care physicians especially stand to benefit from AI-enabled clinical documentation. Kaiser Permanente’s pilot study found statistically significant associations between using an ambient AI scribe and decreased EHR time outside work hours (7 pm to 7 am). 

Researchers also found that more frequent users of the AI tool saw more significant reductions in their EHR time. This dose-response relationship suggests AI scribes are a promising solution for ‘EHR pajama time’.

Ambient AI scribes help physicians focus on patients

Anecdotal responses from physicians using AI scribes were positive. Here are a few highlights from doctors participating in Kaiser’s pilot study. 

“It makes the visit so much more enjoyable because now you can talk more with the patient and concentrate on their concerns.”

“I use it for every visit I can and it is making my notes more concise and my visits better. I know I’m gushing, but this has been the biggest game changer for me.”

On the whole, doctors using AI scribes are happy with the technology. While any new tool requires learning a new workflow, physicians reported time savings and better patient interactions. 

Patients seem comfortable with AI use during visits

Although national surveys report that most Americans are uncomfortable with AI use in healthcare, clinical experience suggests otherwise. Most patients in the Kaiser pilot study were OK with providers using the AI scribe. 

A small sample survey found that about three-quarters of patients said the physician spent more time speaking with them and less time looking at the computer than in previous visits. 

New scribes are accurate but not perfect

Researchers reviewed full transcripts and rated the AI-generated encounter summaries for criteria such as free from bias, synthesized, internally consistent, organized, and accurate. Initial data shows “high levels of performance” across all metrics. 

However, AI scribes aren’t perfect. Reviewers noted a few instances of hallucination, in which the AI scribe added incorrect details. It is crucial that physicians thoroughly review AI-generated clinical notes to ensure accuracy. 

Hurdles to implementing AI medical scribes

Researchers report positive results with Kaiser Permanente’s initial implementation of ambient AI scribes for physician documentation. As the study authors summarize, AI-based medical scribe solutions can help healthcare organizations “reduce the clinical burden of documentation, maintain the quality of notes, and improve the physician-patient experience.”

Still, the study noted several hurdles to implementing AI documentation solutions:

  1. AI scribe technology currently works only for encounters spoken entirely in English. 
  2. Many physicians decided not to implement the tool, citing concerns about the initial workflow changes required for adoption. 
  3. Generative AI algorithms and relevant regulations are evolving rapidly, and new technology will require ongoing evaluation and monitoring to ensure safety and quality.

Healthcare organizations and technology companies will need to address these hurdles for AI medical scribes to alleviate the burden of clinical documentation. 

Further Reading

Are you a provider interested in learning more about generative AI and clinical documentation? 

Check out these articles about ambient clinical intelligence, how AI supercharges medical dictation, and Mobius Conveyor’s new AI medical scribe

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