AAFP Innovation Lab Adds Telehealth to EHR Improvement Efforts

Oct. 27, 2020
Academy expands pilot of Suki digital assistant that combines AI and voice-enabled technology

The Innovation Lab at the American Academy of Family Physicians is making progress on developing tools to help address challenges with EHR usage from a family medicine perspective. The lab also is looking for new and emerging solutions to help family physicians integrate telemedicine into their practices.

In 2018, the AAFP board of directors approved a four-year project to find solutions to EHR-related issues. AAFP Vice President and Chief Medical Informatics Officer Steven Waldren, M.D., M.S., spearheaded the establishment of an Innovation Laboratory to drive innovation using cloud, AI/machine learning, and voice and mobile technologies.

According to AAFP news reports, the first tool the lab has worked with is a digital assistant called Suki that combines AI and voice-enabled technology.  

The lab first studied the impact of Suki used for visit note completion by 10 family physicians using the same type of EHR system (Athena) in a variety of practice settings during stage one.  It conducted a time-and-motion study and a provider survey and interviews. The time-and-motion results showed a 62 percent decrease in documentation time per patient, 51 percent decrease in documentation time during clinic, and 70 percent decrease in after-hours charting. The physician survey showed 100 percent of the providers were more satisfied with how they were doing their notes.

After that proof of concept earlier this year, it has entered a second stage of the pilot process, with dozens of family physicians across the country currently evaluating its performance in practice. This stage of the pilot also opens up to family physicians who use Epic and Cerner EHR systems in addition to Athena. (Further EHR integration is in development.)

AAFP also is starting to work with family medicine practices to evaluate an AI-driven platform called Navina. Designed to enhance clinical workflow by automating data capture and analysis, Navina’s signature product integrates multiple types of patient data from multiple sources (tabular, numerical, time-series, images, text) in real time and restructures it into intuitive, actionable summaries called “Patient Portraits.”

Navina’s goal is to ensure that what's most important is immediately clear, diagnostically linked and contextually surfaced, based on the entirety and complexity of each patient’s data and history.

In a blog post on the organization’s website, AAFP President Ada Stewart, M.D., also described the work of family physician Brent Sugimoto, M.D., M.P.H., who helped found a startup that has an exclusive license on artificial intelligence technology developed at SRI International, and is applying it to primary care.

Sugimoto is chief medical officer for startup Decoded Health. The aim, he told AAFP, is to offer something more than just a health data repository by adding automated capabilities to handle tasks such as telephone triage, documentation and patient follow-up. The platform can listen to patient speech for signs that may help a physician recognize depression and perhaps could be adapted to listen for signs of other health conditions, such as dementia.

The AAFP’s Innovation Lab initially was focused on issues related to administrative burden and value-based care delivery. Although those areas are still priorities, the Academy has expanded the scope of its efforts to include telehealth and other innovations focused on practice viability, Stewart noted.  “By being involved in the development stages of new tools, family medicine can ensure that cutting-edge technologies work the way we need them to,” she wrote.

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