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AI could soon have a big impact on primary care

Annie Zieger

Published: 25 September 2019

A lot of discussion about healthcare AI is vague and visionary in nature. Most of us know that these technologies have a very promising future, but until recently it hasn't been clear just when practical applications will emerge.

The AI is improving primary care.

That could be changing, though. For example, according to a new research paper appearing in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, there are a number of ways in which healthcare AI is having or will soon have an impact on primary care. Areas identified by the researchers include the following:

  • Avoiding excess hospitalizations primary care interventions identified by AI-driven risk prediction
  • Triaging patients and providing medical advice to patients with common symptoms using AI-driven virtual doctors
  • Establishing panel sizes by AI-based analyses of patient complexity
  • Managing and integrating wearable device data into EHRs
  • Creating EHR clinical documentation using AI-powered digital scribes
  • Improving clinical decision-making using AI tools built into the EHR workflow
  • Automating repetitive clerical tasks such as insurance claims, prior authorization, and data reporting

What's particularly fun about this list is that each topic barely scratches the surface of what's already underway. For example, there's already a growing list of hospitals which have deployed AI to detect heightened levels of risk and suggest interventions, and they're all but certain to deploy such solutions to their clinics as well.

At the same time, this piece reminds us that far from replacing doctors, AI tools are moving into medical practice as supports for tackling the everyday challenges of practicing medicine. The AI tools the researchers cite all serve to help physicians do a better job, and in any event are in no way capable of taking over physicians' roles.

In fact, one physician argues that observing AI at work may spur medical creativity and push doctors in directions they never would have gone otherwise. Nick Peters, a professor of cardiology and head of cardiac electrophysiology at Imperial College London, suggests that one potential change AI could bring is a change in how physicians track health is to discover new vital signs which could offer subtler ways of evaluating patients.

In any event, if primary care doctors, hospitals and health systems can incorporate even a few of the technologies listed in the journal article, the effect could prove to be immense. The better the tools are that help PCPs identify and respond to risk, manage flows of patient data, and make clinical diagnosis easier and more accurate, the more physicians can focus on research, care and clinical transformation.

This article was written by Anne Zieger from HospitalEMRandEHR.com and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

Minor grammatical and translational editorial changes may have been made to this article by MSD, which has no impact on the content of the article. This is to ensure all articles remain as relevant as possible to UK healthcare professionals.

GB-NON-01605 | Date of Preparation: October 2019

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