The Mercy health system, in partnership with Microsoft, is planning to implement a series of artificial intelligence (AI)-based tools in the coming months. These tools are expected to help patients navigate the healthcare system, reduce the burden on medical staff, and monitor for errors. While their efforts are still in the early stages, officials believe that AI has the potential to revolutionize healthcare delivery.
One of the first programs that Mercy plans to introduce is a chatbot where patients can ask questions and receive help understanding their lab results. This program aims to reduce the number of calls over basic questions and provide patients with the information they need in a timely manner. Another program will handle patient calls and schedule appointments, while a third internal chatbot tool will assist staff in finding information about policies and procedures.
Mercy leaders have presented around 50 potential uses for AI in the health system to Microsoft. These ideas include using AI to write clinical notes, offer doctors suggestions for possible diagnoses based on patient symptoms, and cut back on the time healthcare workers spend on paperwork.
Despite the desire to adopt AI tools quickly due to the industry’s staffing shortage, Mercy is taking a measured pace to ensure patient safety and privacy. Joe Kelly, Mercy’s executive vice president and chief transformation and business development officer, emphasized the importance of having the right safeguards in place before deploying technology like AI.
Dr. Lee Schwamm, a professor of biomedical informatics and data sciences at Yale School of Medicine, noted that AI is already being used in various parts of the U.S. healthcare system. However, he emphasized the need for human supervision, transparency with patients, and careful consideration of potential biases introduced by AI.
Peter Lee, corporate vice president of research and incubations at Microsoft, sees AI as a valuable tool to reduce the time healthcare workers spend on paperwork and to serve as a backstop for error checking. He believes that AI can be used as a second set of eyes and help catch errors and biases before they have a negative impact on patient care.
Mercy’s adoption of AI tools is not its first venture into technological innovation. The health system has been using a machine learning model for about a year to predict when a patient might be discharged, aiming to prevent unnecessary hospital stays.
Overall, the implementation of AI in healthcare has the potential to improve patient care, streamline processes, and alleviate the staffing shortage. However, it is crucial to approach AI implementation with caution, prioritize patient safety and privacy, and ensure appropriate human supervision and transparency throughout the process.