Physician burnout is rampant, impacting more than half of all U.S. physicians and clinicians, most of whom cite administrative tasks as a huge culprit.
That’s one of the biggest reasons why the clinic I worked for began exploring voice-enabled technologies more than a decade ago. We hoped to make documentation more efficient and considered multiple solutions, from virtual scribes to real, in-person scribes and software applications that would enable us to integrate voice-recognition technology with our EHR.
But while few technologies are addressing the problem of administrative burnout better than voice, the adoption of voice-enabled technologies by physicians is still slower than one would imagine.
The biggest two reasons for this: budgetary constraints and ease of use.
With soaring overhead costs eating into profits, most physician practices aren’t in the position to invest in many robust technology solutions that would make their lives easier. According to one survey of 300 physicians and health leaders, 23% said they had no intention of adopting any form of speech-recognition technology, primarily because of perceived cost (19%), followed by the difficulty in integrating the technology with EHRs and fears that other physicians wouldn’t use it. Yet solutions exist on the market that are proven to reduce documentation workloads by more than 70%, which could free up time for physicians to do what they do best: see more patients.
Recently, after years of evaluating many different approaches, I uncovered an advanced, voice-enabled AI solution and pricing model that addressed all of these barriers and others. And the good news is that my practice is now reaping the benefits of streamlined documentation workflows and improved work-life balance.
A budget-friendly voice solution
While a growing number of physicians use voice-enabled applications such as Amazon’s Alexa in their home, many are resistant to embracing and adopting applications outside of cloud-based EHRs due to additional costs. But perhaps the greatest barrier is the perceived cost.
For example, many physicians have heard about the power of AI and machine learning, or how state-of-the-art ambient voice solutions will transform their lives. These emerging technologies generate a lot of buzz, but they are not always the most practical choice or solution for the average provider organization’s needs.
Today’s physicians need voice technologies that help them to do their jobs well in the most cost-efficient way possible. Many ambient solutions are prohibitively expensive, costing thousands of dollars per user per month, because they rely on humans on the back end to ensure the quality of clinical notes is high.
That’s one huge advantage of our practice’s current cloud-based, voice-enabled application—the Suki Assistant. Available for a $199-per-physician monthly subscription, it’s significantly more cost effective than other solutions. And as a software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution, there are no hardware costs and we get regular upgrades that give us access to new functionality.
Because I can use voice commands to complete my patient notes, I’m able to see a higher volume of patients than most of my physician peers. I’m not alone, either: The Suki Assistant achieved a 72% decrease in median documentation time per month, for an average savings of 3.3 hours per week, according to a recent pilot by the AAFP Innovation Labs. [Editor’s Note: The author has no relationship with Suki]
Voice that fits into physician workflow
There is an initial time investment up front in learning to use any technology solution. Learning curves are a major deterrent for many provider organizations looking to adopt new technologies. Fortunately, our experience implementing voice was characterized by a 30-minute onboarding process, and maybe an hour or two to get acclimated to the solution. This investment now pales in comparison to the dozens of hours I’ve saved over the years.
For those of us that aren’t blessed with top-of-the-line EHRs, integration is an important point to emphasize. Finding a voice solution that works well with your practice’s existing EHR and populates the right information in the right way, or retrieves it when commanded to, is a critical consideration.
Understandably, some physicians may have resistance to investing the time in changing their workflow to accommodate voice. For example, I have a partner who types well over 100 words per minute and insisted that she didn’t need a voice-enabled assistant. However, now that she’s seeing me leave the office 30 minutes ahead of her on a daily basis, she may soon change her tune.
It’s hard to imagine what life would be like without voice assistants, now that I’m accustomed to using them. But I do see the difference when I leave work 15 minutes after my last patient encounter and I’m able to shut my computer down, without worrying about bringing work home with me. Having that peace of mind has kept me from feeling burnt out, day after day.
Photo: berya113, Getty Images