The AI tool is not designed to predict treatments, provide evidence-based decision support, diagnose, or prescribe treatment. It serves to assist clinicians and the AI-generated, HIPAA-compliant drafts must always be reviewed by a provider for accuracy and appropriateness.
"It's a virtual assistant that tees up messages for clinicians to review, allowing us more time for direct patient care," said Dr. Wetherhold. "Clinicians remain an irreplaceable part of the communication loop with patients. This AI tool is an assistant, not a substitute."
By simplifying the administrative aspects of patient communications, the tool aims to alleviate clinician burnout — a growing concern in health care. Dr. Wetherhold notes that the volume of patient messages arriving in physicians’ in-baskets has seen a roughly 50% uptick since the onset of COVID-19, thereby cutting into the time available for face-to-face patient interactions.
"We hope that by easing some of the administrative load, physicians can focus more on the personalized care that attracted them to medicine in the first place," said Dr. Wetherhold.
Scripps Health, in collaboration with Epic Systems, will continue to refine the AI tool through weekly check-ins and clinician feedback. Currently, there is one Scripps primary care location involved in the initial pilot, and the plan is to gradually roll out the feature to a broader range of health care providers in the coming months.