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Banner Health is betting big on AI for doctors

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The Arizona-based healthcare system is rolling out a new tool to all 33 hospitals in 6 states, designed to help physicians ease their documentation burden

One of the nation’s largest healthcare systems is scaling an AI tool across its enterprise, hoping to give doctors more time with their patients.

Arizona-based Banner Health gives physicians at all 33 hospitals in six states access to a tool within the EHR that summarizes clinical notes. The technology, developed by Regard, is designed to reduce physician time spent in front of a computer and make access to decision support for care management easier.

The project is indicative of a trend in healthcare, with healthcare systems and hospitals across the country putting AI to work performing back-end and administrative tasks that would otherwise be done by doctors or nurses. Industry leaders see these projects as “low-hanging fruit” that proves the value of AI and delivers immediate ROI.

“We’re looking at multiple ways to take tasks off physicians’ hands and replace them with bedside time,” said Susan Lee, DO, MBA, CP, the health system’s Physician Executive for Hospital Based Medicine. “We want to be AI-enabled.”

“The more we can see these tools as enhancers and not substitutes, I think organizations will adopt them successfully,” she adds.

Lee says the health care system, which tested the tool at Banner Thunderbird Medical Center in 2022, has taken the unusual step of asking that each physician be trained one-on-one, rather than via video or in a classroom. The idea is to personalize the doctor’s use of AI and make it more meaningful.

“I think the ability to impact such a broad range of clinical care in a meaningful way made us want to go the more personalized route with this tool,” she says.

This also helps with buy-in, as physicians come to understand that AI can augment their workflows rather than replace them. Lee points out that physicians should select the resource in the EHR, review the summary, and act on it.

“There is also a human at the end of the AI ​​loop,” she says. “The doctor still makes all clinical decisions. This tool helps the doctor sort information faster and also sorts a very large portfolio of information that the doctor could sort manually, (but) it just does it a lot faster.

Whether the tool actually improves documentation or care management remains to be seen. Lee says the health care system will initially track how many doctors use it and how often. They will also look to see if the tool captures all the information a doctor needs and if that summary is accurate.

It is also important to see how this tool evolves. As with any AI technology, the platform becomes more sophisticated as more data is introduced. Lee says Banner Health physicians have provided and will continue to provide feedback on the tool, giving Regard greater insight into what works and what doesn’t for physicians. That feedback should help develop the technology, while also giving doctors the confidence to use a tool of their own development.

“Banner wants to be a frontrunner in a lot of these scenarios,” Lee says of the opportunity to influence a tool’s development. “We would like to be influencers. I think everyone should try to play with it.”

Eric Wicklund is associate content manager and senior editor for Innovation, Technology and Pharma for HealthLeaders.