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December 13, 2023 Readers Write No Comments

AI: The Prescription for Healthcare Troubles
By Andrew Lockhart

Andrew Lockhart, MBA is co-founder and CEO of Fathom of San Francisco, CA.

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Healthcare in America is grappling with a severe workforce shortage, with the closure of physician staffing firm American Physician Partners (APP) earlier this year adding fuel to the fire. Healthcare leaders are searching for a solid solution to address the workforce shortage, and it looks like artificial intelligence (AI) is the answer.

APP’s shutdown follows Envision Healthcare’s footsteps. Both firms cited financial problems as the reason behind their closures. The shutdown of two staffing giants sent waves of panic throughout the already stressed and understaffed healthcare system, and the fallout has shone a light on the already glaring vulnerabilities within the industry.

The lack of workers is affecting emergency medicine, hospital medicine, and critical care management departments, among others, and the future looks even bleaker. An industry market report by Mercer predicts that by 2025, the US will have a shortage of a shocking 95,000 nursing assistants and 98,700 medical and lab technicians, among other worrying figures. This shortage is already negatively impacting the patient experience and safety, with the Joint Commission reporting a 19% rise in adverse events in 2022.

In response to these challenges, technology, particularly AI, is emerging as a crucial component in healthcare operations. Given the current state of healthcare, there is no way for organizations to provide the volume of level and care that patients expect and deserve without some form of automation. Here are three critical ways AI improves healthcare services.

Augmenting Workforce

As staffing shortages become increasingly prevalent, AI offers a scalable solution to address gaps in critical areas. AI provides a lifeline to stressed-out staff by reducing admin burdens and automating repetitive tasks. It frees up precious time for clinical and administrative staff to upskill and operate at the top of their license, maximizing the potential of the entire workforce.

For example, the American Medical Association (AMA) found that healthcare is facing a deficit of experienced medical coders, 30% to be exact. The average medical coder is aging out, and there are few coders ready to take their place. Autonomous coding helps health organizations improve accuracy, reduce denials, and make quicker reimbursements. Another bonus of AI coding is its ability to adapt to complicated new coding guidelines easily, ensuring compliance and accuracy.

Improving Operating Margins

McKinsey reports that healthcare organizations are feeling the strain of financial pressure because of rising inflation and a faltering economy. AI can support the careful balance of maintaining high-quality patient care and optimizing costs by streamlining revenue cycle management (RCM). AI optimizes RCM by automating processes and reducing paperwork, boosting patient satisfaction. More tangibly, it produces measurable cost savings, reduced denials, faster turnaround times, and improved revenue capture.

Attracting Top Talent

Incorporating AI tools into an organization’s workflow is a great way to entice top-tier candidates in an increasingly competitive labor market. Normalizing AI’s use throughout an organization signals to job seekers that innovation is a priority, which is incredibly appealing to the younger generation. Younger prospects also have higher expectations for AI to enhance their day-to-day operations and associate it with cutting-edge projects.

To proactively address workforce challenges, C-level professionals need to strategize for the future, and AI is a long-term solution to build a resilient healthcare workforce. When bringing on new technology, leaders must foster an environment that encourages using AI and be intentional about change management. Technology is only as good as the people who use it, and any solution requires a robust rollout plan with alignment from the entire company. To successfully deploy new AI, look for a vendor with a dedicated customer success team to walk you through any potential road bumps, or set up a steering committee or other governance to lead and finalize AI decisions.

Aside from the multitude of financial, administrative, and HR benefits, adopting AI will also make disruptive events like the closure of APP easier for organizations to bounce back from. With a sturdy AI strategy, organizations are well-positioned to weather any future storms.

AI is gathering speed and changing the face of healthcare. Leaders need to lean in and embrace it or risk getting left behind. Working with AI, healthcare organizations can help address workforce woes, attract a new generation of talent, and have long-term resilience. The time to act is now.



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