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Artificial Intelligence in Your Practice

By Thomas Ferkovic, R.Ph., MS
Managing Director
Medic Management Group, LLC.

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Original Publish Date: June 5, 2018

“Hey Siri, Hey Alexa: reorder my prescriptions…schedule my my copay…”. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is taking over the world if you believe the content of movies, television shows and advertising. The most famous AI characters that we all remember are ‘HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey’ and the famous ‘Agent Smith from the Matrix Trilogy’. These examples of artificial intelligence provide us with rational thought, good and bad, all knowing and seeing. Our imagination runs wild about how AI will affect the practice of medicine.

As healthcare practitioners most of us think of artificial intelligence as BIG DATA being collected through your electronic medical records, converted to treatment protocols and the eventual grading of your work. The definition of artificial intelligence is ‘the theory and development of computer systems able to perform repetitive tasks that normally require human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between languages’. In the day to day healthcare world that most of us work, the definition of artificial intelligence should be “automated repetitive tasks that can be easily programmed using a machine (software) and that the machine can continue to improve the performance of the process, without a human explaining the next step”. In its simplest form, think Siri, think Alexa, think voice recognition dictation into a computer that is converted to an accurate record. No more typing into that EMR!

Should you be worried that you will no longer be needed in your practice? No. Artificial intelligence can learn to diagnose disease, beat the best human in poker or chess, it is far from able to transform your practice. AI can help make your practice more efficient. AI can create opportunities to improve quality and efficiency in your practice. You should not be worried, but, the world you work in is changing faster than you can comprehend. In 2017, Kaiser Foundation reported that 110,000,000 (52%) visits were via smartphone, kiosks, or video conferencing. The world you practice in is changing. The way we perform practice business functions are changing. Google has entered the healthcare field through their company, Verily Life Sciences. You do need to be ready for a different market place.

How can I use AI in my practice? Remember the definition of AI,..perform repetitive tasks that normally require human intelligence…, look for repetitive tasks that can be automated. Start by looking at small opportunities that can save money or make you more efficient. The simplest use is voice recognition, dictation. Dictation instead of typing can save your practice time, money and the accuracy has improved dramatically. The second area is revenue cycle functions. Use the tools at hand to their fullest capacity.

Billing and collections are repetitive task functions that lend themselves to AI programs. For example, to follow up or check on claims status billers have two options. Call the insurer and provide patient information, be limited to time and number of claims per call. Or, use an insurer website to type in a password, the patient information, claim number and then access status information. These are both repetitive, time consuming and expensive tasks that require a person. Using AI you can program a machine (read computer) to check the status of claims and report those claims that need human intervention. The AI program can check many more claims than a normal biller. Start by taking small steps, find projects that are repetitive and time consuming and try to improve the existing process.

If you have read this far and are not a ‘digital’ office, stop here. If your processes from scheduling to billing to medical records are not digital you are not ready for AI. The first step is to automate your processes. There are many basic functions in your current business systems (software) that you can use to post payments, pay bills, automate tasks, schedule appointments/procedures that do not require additional cost. You probably have the tools in current software, use the tools you paid for first.

Do not think of AI as a way to save money by eliminating people. Think of AI as quality improvement and patient service improvement. AI should become a strategy and the tool to make your practice a place your patients want to come. AI should be used to clean up repetitive tasks and to move low level jobs upstream to take advantage of the knowledge and experience of staff to improve how the practice functions.

We cannot predict the speed at which the clinical practice of medicine will change using new tools and diagnostic capabilities, we can say it will change and it will probably change faster than we can imagine. This is an exciting time to be in healthcare. Technology is changing how you communicate with patients, how you diagnose and follow chronic disease patients, how you run your practice. Use AI to improve the business and patient access functions of the practice so when time comes for a big leap into artificial intelligence the practice is ready.

Tom graduated from the University of Toledo with a Bachelors degree in Pharmacy and received a Masters from Case Western Reserve University. He was a Vice President for Saint Luke’s Medical Center in Cleveland Ohio specializing in the departments of Medicine, Surgery, Orthopedics, and Emergency Medicine. Tom started the first hospital owned physician group in the greater Cleveland area in 1993.

In 1999 Tom had the opportunity to start Medic Management Group, LLC. formerly known as (SS&G Healthcare Services, LLC.). Medic Management Group is a Consulting and Management Services Organization specializing in physician practices and healthcare issues. Medic Management Group, LLC. is the leading provider of management, billing and consulting services to physicians. Medic Management Group works with clients in 26 states and manages over 3,000 physicians. Medic Management Group consists of 150 of the best physician practice specialists.