Virtual assistant services can provide assistance not only with patient records, but with note taking and other data retrieval services
In theory, using an electronic health record (EHR) system should make it easier to run your chiropractic practice. Computerized access to all of your patients’ records provides access to their entire medical histories whether you’re at the front counter or in an exam room and an integrated system offers more convenient billing. But not all health care providers are finding joy in their EHRs, but virtual assistant services are becoming more widespread.
Becker’s Health IT cites incidents in which medical facilities have suffered major reductions in productivity after implementing an EHR. If the EHR system goes down for any length of time, this can cause hardships too.
So, if you find that you’re struggling with your electronic records system, you are not alone. On a more positive note, virtual assistants may soon become more commonplace with EHRs, providing some relief.
What are EHR virtual assistant services?
Imagine having someone beside you throughout the work day and, every time you have a question about a patient — such as when they were originally diagnosed with a medical condition or if they have a family history of certain issues — this person is able to instantly provide the answer. That’s what a virtual assistant does with your EHR. It is a software program that uses artificial intelligence (AI) capable of skimming through your patient’s records and finding the data you’ve requested.
In January of 2018, EHR Intelligence reported that some health information technology (IT) companies were working to develop this type of virtual assistant for EHRs. Others already had this technology in place. The hope is that this type of advancement will become more prevalent in the future, helping to reduce the burnout commonly associated with trying to work your way through a sometimes counterintuitive or cumbersome record system.
Modern Healthcare adds that some virtual assistant services will do more than simply locate patient information. For instance, instead of you noting the file during or after an appointment, the software will automatically record the information for you. It essentially ‘listens in’ during the appointment session and records the data you present.
Having virtual assistant services that provide this service enables you to spend more time with your patients and less time looking at a computer screen. It also reduces the likelihood that you’ll forget to write something down because all you have to do is say it aloud and the information is placed in your patient’s file.
Potential issues with a virtual assistant
Although using a virtual assistant seems like it will ease EHR frustrations dramatically, there are some ways in which this type of application could potentially fall short.
One is whether the virtual assistant is able to locate information buried deep in your patient’s records. If you’re already having integration issues between your EHR and other software and, thus have difficulty finding information, would a virtual assistant have the same type of issues?
Another concern would be whether a virtual assistant that dictates during the treatment session is able to record what you’ve said accurately. This has been an issue with other types of dictation software in the past and, if still an issue with this type of program, could take even more of your time as you try to remember exactly what you said, ensuring that the patient’s file is correct.
If you do use an EHR that offers a virtual assistant, it would also likely be helpful to notify your patients of this beforehand. This helps them understand why you’re sharing all of their information out loud during a treatment session, which also brings up another important issue: HIPAA.
AI and HIPAA
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was put in place to help protect patients when sharing their sensitive personal information. If a software program assists with this, it too must be compliant.
The Department of Health and Human Services states that it is working to establish guidelines for ensuring that AI adheres to the standards set by HIPAA. In its 2019 Roundtable Report: Sharing and Utilizing Health Data for AI Applications, this agency shares that it hopes to “reduce barriers to the use of AI technologies” while still minimizing the vulnerability of the information obtained and recorded.
This involves investing in the infrastructure needed to support AI and creating standards to ensure data quality. It also requires that the software can effectively exchange and use the necessary information.
In the end, a virtual assistant may be able to ease some of your frustrations with EHRs. It may not get rid of them completely, but hopefully it reduces them enough to make these recordkeeping systems easier to use.