How AI is Solving the 3 Biggest Healthcare Challenges of 2024

Jan 22, 2024 | Blogs

One year ago, generative artificial intelligence (GenAI) stormed the headlines with the promise of facilitating more efficient ways to work. Experts saw the healthcare industry as uniquely suited to benefit from this technological advancement. As hospitals and health systems struggle to manage staffing shortages driven by burnout, AI-enabled technology like ambient medical documentation can alleviate the burden of time-intensive administrative work. With AI tools taking on the heavy lifting of medical charting tasks like transcribing and formatting medical note drafts, clinicians can save hours every day—and this time savings is just the beginning of what AI-enabled medical technology can accomplish.

Entering 2024, AI is poised to influence the biggest challenges in the healthcare space today, such as: 

  • Reducing labor costs
  • Operationalizing value-based care
  • Revolutionizing decision-making at both clinical and executive levels

Explore how AI will shape the industry this year and beyond as technology moves us toward a brighter future in healthcare. 

1. Controlling Healthcare Labor Costs Through AI

The COVID-19 public health emergency may have officially ended in 2023, but the healthcare industry continues to grapple with the pandemic’s long-term consequences. The most notable trend is record-high labor costs across the sector, which increased 6.5% last year. According to Forbes, if health systems fail to address the problems driving these costs, it is estimated that clinical labor costs will continue to rise at more than an 11% compound annual growth rate through 2027.

But what is driving the increase in labor costs? While inflation plays a role, the issues driving labor costs precede the pandemic: an aging workforce, burnout, and staffing shortages.

Over 300,000 clinicians left the workforce during COVID-19, and of those remaining, 47% intend to leave the healthcare profession by the end of 2025. To fill the gap, the remaining staff must manage an increased workload with fewer resources. Hospitals and health systems relying on contract labor have seen the largest spikes in labor costs: contract nurses’ median hourly rates have risen from $64 to $132 an hour, and demand for these services has increased 91% from 2020 to 2023. To mitigate the rising cost of labor, health systems must make better use of their remaining staff and retain labor by providing them with crucial support that reduces turnover and reliance on expensive contract nurses. 

With more resources allocated to patient care, health systems have been forced to reduce expenses in other key areas. According to Fierce Healthcare, health systems have been forced to cut administrative roles and upper-level management to support their bottom line, further reducing layers of support within their organizations. While demand for patient-facing staff remains high, labor costs are affecting every layer of healthcare systems.

AI-enabled products are uniquely positioned to address rising labor costs within health systems. Clinicians no longer have enough time in their workday to complete the tasks assigned to them—a key factor driving burnout in the industry and causing many to leave the field entirely. This is in part because clinicians are spending less time treating patients and more time on tasks like medical documentation. For instance, it is estimated that medical-surgical nurses spend 35% of their time on documentation and another 21% on care coordination. Physicians can spend up to 4.5 hours every day on charting. Over half of their workday is spent away from patients. 

Augmedix, a healthcare technology company that delivers industry-leading ambient medical documentation and data solutions, is harnessing the power of AI to ease the documentation burden. Augmedix’s platform addresses key challenges in the healthcare space by freeing up clinicians’ time to see more patients and reducing turnover by supporting clinicians with the administrative tasks driving burnout. Leveraging proprietary large language processing models, generative AI, and structured data sets, Augmedix helps automate the medical documentation process by extracting data from natural clinician-patient conversations and converting it into a medical note. With less time allocated to charting and more time to see patients, Augmedix increases work-life satisfaction, boosts overall revenue, and saves clinicians up to 3 hours every day on administrative tasks.

2. AI’s Impact on Value-Based Care

Value-based care is a promising healthcare delivery model that aims to improve the quality of patient visits while controlling costs. Centered on achieving the best health outcomes for patients, value-based care takes a holistic approach to patient health by focusing on the long-term health and well-being of individuals, rather than just treating specific illnesses or symptoms. To achieve this approach, technology must be implemented that supports healthcare providers by facilitating patient-centered care, data sharing, care coordination, and performance measurement.

AI-enabled tools are crucial for unlocking the potential for better patient interactions in healthcare. One area in need of improvement is EHR implementation and use, which has generally lowered the quality of patient encounters. While these systems help ensure that information can be easily accessed and shared between health systems, patients have reported feeling less heard by clinicians who spend patient visits multi-tasking and logging information into the EHR, rather than facing the patient. 

Health systems that adopt AI-enabled medical documentation technology like Augmedix have seen dramatic improvements in the quality of patient encounters. Rather than entering information into a computer terminal, ambient documentation operates off of a mobile device and is invisible at the point of care. Early evidence shows that patients appreciate the higher level of presence and care provided by clinicians who use AI medical documentation. 

AI is also helping bridge gaps between efficiency and patient care. Ambient medical documentation has been shown to be more effective at standardizing and capturing diagnostic codes, making for more effective and consistent billing while reducing the probability of errors. Other tasks, like prior authorizations, can also be automated, reducing gaps in care and ensuring that patients get the treatment they need when they need it. Without the burden of medical documentation and other administrative tasks, clinicians can focus their attention on the patient experience.

3. Leveraging AI for Clinical and Executive Decision-Making

We are at the very beginning of the AI revolution in healthcare. Early results have already shown how AI improves patient care and labor costs. And soon, the data gathered from patient encounters will play a role in optimizing decision-making on every level of a health system, from clinical diagnosis to the executive level.

Yet these same benefits have raised fear around the use and ethics of AI in healthcare. As more health systems adopt AI-enabled tools to enhance their workflows, transparent and open communication around this technology must remain central to its use.

According to a Pew Research Center survey, 60% of Americans are concerned about having algorithms determine patient treatment plans. But this concern is rooted in a fundamental misconception. Healthcare AI should augment clinician care, not replace it with a machine.

Predictive AI in healthcare is still in its infancy, yet its potential in healthcare is certain to benefit patient care. With the ability to comb through large amounts of population health data and combine it with statistical modeling, machine learning, and statistical modeling, healthcare AI will soon be able to enhance clinical decision-making and improve population health. It can identify patient risks to help providers deliver the right care at the right time, identify larger population-based healthcare trends, and even anticipate patient admissions to allocate resources such as hospital beds, staff, and equipment. Predictive AI in healthcare will improve every layer of healthcare operations from patient care to operational management.

In spite of all of these changes, the role of the clinician will be just as important as ever, especially in critical care settings. While predictive AI can provide key insights and treatment suggestions, the responsibility for care ultimately falls into the hands of a clinician, whose professional expertise remains central to patient care. Clinicians remain legally and ethically responsible for patient outcomes. AI in healthcare will profoundly shape the industry at large, but it is still only a tool for enhancing treatment: medical decision-making remains in the hands of humans.

Data lies at the heart of strategic decision-making in healthcare. Health systems sit on seemingly endless amounts of data in their EHR systems, but that data is unstructured, meaning it’s not useful without a data analytics solution. Augmedix’s platform transforms unstructured data into structured data to create a medical note. This structured data is also invaluable in helping health systems identify trends and correlations.

Augmedix integrates easily with existing healthcare infrastructure and provides actionable insights into areas such as population studies, workflow efficiencies, clinical outcomes, readmissions data, and reimbursement issues. These insights are critical for healthcare systems’ clinical and executive decision-making.

Augmedix Drives Innovation in Healthcare

Reducing labor costs, implementing value-based care, and optimizing clinical and executive decision-making are three key topics top of mind for healthcare professionals and executives in 2024. AI is uniquely poised to enhance these three areas to provide value for organizations, patients, and public health.

As healthcare AI evolves over the coming years, health systems need to consider the ways in which this technology can supplement and grow alongside their organizations. According to McKinsey, implementing care delivery transformation, administrative optimizations, clinical productivity, and technology enablement has the potential to generate a collective opportunity of up to $1.5 trillion for the healthcare industry through 2027.

Amid concerns about the implementation of AI in healthcare, delivering safe, quality patient care must remain a mission-critical priority to hospitals and health systems. That’s why human connection and highly precise results lie at the center of Augmedix’s mission. The Augmedix AI Advisory Council plays a vital role in ensuring that, while developing and deploying AI throughout the company’s products, Augmedix achieves transparency, trust, accountability, privacy, and security standards. Augmedix is committed to driving the evolution of healthcare through AI-enabled products that solve healthcare’s top challenges in 2024: navigating rising labor costs, adjusting to the value-based care delivery model, and leveraging data to make the best decisions.

Interested in learning more? Explore Augmedix’s suite of AI-enabled products or reach out today to learn more about offerings for your organization.