If you have ever lived with a healthcare provider, you have probably seen them on the couch after work, typing away in the electronic health record, completing the notes from their appointments that day. While EHRs have made it easy to transfer, store, and share information, they have also added many new data fields to traditional patient forms—which can be good for doctors to know, but time consuming to enter. Filling out all the data fields in the modern EHR can take dozens of hours a week for already busy physicians, and doctors often sit behind a computer screen and furiously type as they chat during appointments, trying to multitask, which can be distracting and impersonal.
DFW company OnPoint Healthcare Partners hopes to take much of that note-taking off physicians’ plates and allow them to focus on conversations with patients. The company uses a combination of artificial intelligence and human oversight to record patient appointments, transcribes conversations, and input the information needed in an EHR. Called Iris, it frees up physicians during the appointment.
After the appointment, the artificial intelligence fills in the health record, and the document is reviewed by a staff member to make sure it is filled out correctly. Iris sends a filled-out record of the conversation, diagnosis, and prognosis to the physician to approve before it is officially entered into the record system.
“I was doing some documentation during the office visit, but then most of it was done after the office visit—usually at night, at home, and on the weekends,” says Dr. Cindi Swaim, a family practice physician from Tennessee. She would typically spend several hours over the weekend and each day finishing out the notes, and she was always one to two weeks behind the actual appointment. “Now my notes are more up to date and on time, and I’m not spending that time on the weekends documenting.”
Swaim says that it took some time to onboard the system and learn what she, as a physician, needs to say to get the technology to create each record effectively. At times, she makes additional comments into the recorder to make sure the note is complete. Another critical piece for Swaim was that the final product is not a transcription of the conversation, with small talk or relationship building captured in the note. Between the AI and the human review, what goes in the EHR is only what needs to be there.
OnPoint is a healthcare solutions company founded by President and CEO Jim Boswell. Iris is one of OnPoint’s solutions, though they often partner with other vendors. “What the EHR has done to the practicing physician on a day-to-day basis is put a huge emphasis on entering that data, and that has created a burden, so we wanted technology to work for the physicians, not the other way around,” Boswell says. “We wanted to return the joy of medicine to the provider.”
Having help with notes is not a new creation, as medical scribes have often been an essential part of the profession. But note-taking jobs are rarely permanent, and hiring and training new employees, then ensuring they form a solid relationship with their corresponding physician, can be time-consuming. “That model is not sustainable. Students who are doing that work go off to college, which creates a lot of change. Physicians are constantly training people [as scribes], so we felt we could build a better mousetrap.”
Swaim says that not having a scribe in the room can also allow patients to open up more readily about sensitive subjects. The physician also doesn’t have to worry about the scribe missing work, as the artificial intelligence is always on duty. With multiple staff members looking over the health record, a physician isn’t dependent upon one person to have their notes finished.
The technology applies to any service line, and OnPoint is looking to expand once its pilot period ends. They have currently offered Iris to several multi-specialty clinics around the country and are in the process of implementing it within a few large health systems. “We have been presenting it to clients and implementing it, and we haven’t had a client yet that hasn’t wanted to go forward once they heard about it,” Boswell says.