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Research shows that AI improves communication between doctor and patient




Research shows that AI improves communication between doctor and patient

Credit: CC0 Public domain

As one of the first healthcare systems in the country to pilot the use of generative artificial intelligence (GenAI) to craft responses to patient messages in Epic Systems’ electronic health record, UC San Diego Health is a pioneer in shaping the future of digital healthcare.

The results of a new study from the University of California San Diego School of Medicine indicate that while AI-generated responses did not shorten physicians’ response times, they helped alleviate cognitive load by using an empathetic design start, which doctors can edit instead of starting from scratch. .

The study, published in JAMA network openedis the first randomized prospective evaluation of AI-generated messages about physicians.

“We are very interested in using AI to help solve challenges in the healthcare system, including the increase in patient messages that are contributing to physician burnout,” said senior study author Christopher Longhurst, MD, executive director of the Joan and Irwin Jacobs Center for Health Innovation. , Chief Medical Officer and Chief Digital Officer at UC San Diego Health. “The evidence that the messages are longer suggests that they are of higher quality, and the data clearly shows that physicians appreciated the help, which reduced cognitive burden.”

This quality improvement study evaluates patient-physician correspondence and suggests that integrating generative AI into digital healthcare interactions has the potential to positively impact patient care by improving communication quality, efficiency and engagement. Additionally, by relieving some of the workload for physicians, generative AI is expected to help reduce burnout by allowing physicians to focus on more complex aspects of patient care.

“This study shows that generative AI can be a collaborative tool,” said lead study author Ming Tai-Seale, Ph.D., MPH, professor of family medicine at UC San Diego School of Medicine. “Our physicians receive approximately 200 messages per week. AI could help break through writer’s block by providing physicians with an empathy-infused concept on which to formulate thoughtful responses to patients.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to unprecedented use of digital communications between patients and physicians, which continues to be in high demand. Portals like MyUCSDChart, used by UC San Diego Health, make it easy to email a doctor directly and have created increased pressure for quick responses from providers that many can no longer process efficiently.

The use of generative AI to craft patient responses to non-urgent questions was tested in a pilot program with electronic health record provider Epic Systems, which launched at UC San Diego Health in April 2023, to provide virtual physician assistance to help meet the rising demand from patient messages. For full transparency, responses include a notice that they are automatically generated by AI before being reviewed and edited by the physician who signs them.

Time-poor physicians, who may only have time for a short, evidence-based response, found that generative AI helps craft longer, compassionate responses that patients appreciate and understand.

“AI doesn’t get tired, so even at the end of a long day it still has the ability to craft an empathetic message while synthesizing the request and relevant data into the response,” says co-author of the study, Marlene Millen, MD. , chief medical information officer for ambulatory care at UC San Diego Health. “So while we were surprised by the study’s findings that AI messaging did not save physicians time, we see that it can help prevent burnout by providing detailed design as a starting point.”

The study’s findings suggest a potential paradigm shift in healthcare communications using AI, noting that further analysis is needed to gauge how useful patients find the increased empathy and response length.

UC San Diego Health, in collaboration with the Jacobs Center for Health Innovation, has been extensively testing GenAI models since May 2023. These transformative projects will help explore the safe, effective, and novel uses of GenAI in healthcare.

Co-authors of the study include: Sally L. Baxter, Florin Vaida, Amanda Walker, Amy M. Sitapati, Chad Osborne, Joseph Diaz, Nimit Desai, Sophie Webb, Gregory Polston, Teresa Helsten, Erin Gross, Jessica Thackaberry, Ammar Mandvi , Dustin Lillie, Steve Li, Geneen Gin, Suraj Achar, Heather Hofflick and Marlene Millen all from UC San Diego; and Christopher Sharp of Stanford.

More information:
Ming Tai-Seale et al, AI-generated draft answers integrated into physicians’ health records and electronic communications, JAMA network opened (2024). DOI: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2024.6565

Presented by the University of California – San Diego

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