In the global spotlight this week, artificial intelligence assumes a dual role of promise and peril, as President Joe Biden and other leaders address the United Nations General Assembly.
On a more modest stage, one entity is formally unveiling its wager on AI’s potential to enhance healthcare. Hint Health, a digital health enterprise specializing in providing Direct Primary Care (DPC) providers with practice management software and ancillary tools, is poised to launch a novel AI product, developed in collaboration with OpenAI.
Under the DPC framework, patients remit membership fees for unfettered access to healthcare professionals. DPC providers, distinct from the conventional health insurance milieu, derive their revenue from these membership fees, rather than relying on insurance reimbursements for individual services rendered.
Introducing Hint AI, an innovative solution enabling DPC providers to document patient consultations, transcribe these interactions, and automatically generate comprehensive medical records. While the notion of automating this task may seem mundane, the potential for time-saving is substantial. A 2022 analysis revealed that physicians expend an average of 4.5 hours daily on electronic health records, encompassing the documentation of patient encounters.
With Hint’s cutting-edge tool, physicians are still required to peruse their notes, make requisite adjustments, and provide their endorsement. Nonetheless, according to Hint Health’s CEO, Zak Holdsworth, early trials of the tool have demonstrated that physicians can often validate the AI-generated notes with minimal or no modifications.
Holdsworth asserts, “The preliminary outcomes are remarkably positive.”
Enhancing clinical documentation constitutes only the nascent phase of Hint’s AI deployment. The company envisions incorporating AI capabilities across its platform comprehensively. For instance, there are plans to introduce a HIPAA-compliant tool akin to ChatGPT, seamlessly integrated into medical records. This tool would empower physicians to access a patient’s medical history, preparing them for forthcoming consultations, devising treatment regimens, or identifying patterns and trends in the patient’s health. Additionally, AI will be employed to facilitate the automatic generation of referrals to specialists or other healthcare providers.
Even these expanded AI applications only scratch the surface of what the future may hold. Aliisa Rosenthal, Head of Sales at OpenAI, articulates, “AI possesses the potential to revolutionize healthcare in a manner that enhances, rather than supplants, human interactions. We are excited that Hint Health is harnessing OpenAI’s technology to provide advanced tools to healthcare practitioners who share our vision.”
Gayle Brekke, PhD, FSA, the founder and chief influencer at Primary Care Mindset and host of the Nurturing the Heart of Family Practice podcast, contends that AI tools hold promise in improving various facets of DPC practice. These include the identification of hazardous drug interactions, streamlining medication dispensation, and aiding in the diagnosis of skin conditions through image analysis.
Brekke asserts, “Leveraging DPC practices to assess AI-powered technologies will help identify those that appear promising in theory but encounter practical challenges, thereby averting a repetition of the electronic health records debacle.”
While the integration of AI in conventional clinical settings promises efficiency gains and streamlined administrative processes like billing and coding, Holdsworth maintains that AI alone will not revolutionize healthcare. He suggests that technological advances over the past few decades have primarily reinforced existing incentives within the healthcare system rather than effecting transformative change.
According to Holdsworth, AI may inadvertently perpetuate the status quo, intensifying the conflict between insurance companies and healthcare providers, and further eroding the doctor-patient relationship.
Conversely, within the DPC context, where incentives are not at odds between insurers and providers, AI offers the prospect of optimizing patient-physician connections and communication.
Holdsworth elaborates, “We can concentrate on augmenting the therapeutic alliance, focusing on capabilities that are genuinely patient- or physician-centric, as opposed to being oriented around the healthcare system.”
For AI tools to gain traction in the DPC community, they must fulfill this promise, as per Brekke’s perspective.
“One advantage of DPC practices is their independence from third-party payers; consequently, they will only adopt technologies that enhance patient care or streamline business operations,” she contends.
Nevertheless, Brekke cautions that AI tools may not be as indispensable in DPC practices as in other healthcare settings. This is because some of the impediments and bureaucratic hurdles present in traditional healthcare delivery do not encumber DPC practices.
“DPC affords patients time and alleviates them from documentation and administrative burdens that do not benefit their care,” she explains. “Why would they relinquish aspects of care centered on building relationships and trust to AI?”
Holdsworth concurs, asserting, “AI can genuinely alleviate administrative burdens for physicians, affording them more time to concentrate on patients, thus reinforcing the doctor-patient connection and ensuring a more personalized approach to care.”
Furthermore, AI tools can facilitate improved communication between patients and physicians by simplifying medical terminology and complex information into easily comprehensible plain English.
Holdsworth concludes, “The notion of supplementing the system’s deficiencies with AI, due to patients not receiving the care they desire, is not a pressing concern in DPC. In this context, AI can be a tool to enhance, not substitute, the patient experience.”