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Epic in Process of Developing AI EHR Documentation Assistant

Judy Faulkner told Vanderbilt University health IT experts that Epic will launch its own AI EHR documentation assistant within two years.

In a recent virtual seminar, Epic CEO and founder, Judy Faulkner, told health IT experts at Vanderbilt University Medical Center that the EHR vendor giant is tirelessly working to mitigate clinician burnout by developing an artificial intelligence (AI) EHR documentation assistant.

During the seminar, Faulkner discussed the vendor’s past and present work, highlighted by how the vendor plans to combat clinician burnout, if the company plans to optimize the Epic patient portal for the upcoming interoperability rule compliance date, and more.

Dara Mize, MD, assistant professor of Biomedical Informatics, asked Faulkner what Epic is doing to help ease EHR documentation and mitigate clinician burnout.

Clinician burnout is a common issue tied with EHR usability, EHR emergence, and EHR prevalence. Poor EHR usability leads to high levels of physician attrition, depression, dissatisfaction, and burnout.

While Faulkner said the vendor is committed to combatting clinician burnout and diminishing EHR documentation requirements, she said the company is still roughly two years away from deploying an artificial intelligence (AI) EHR tool that could transcribe clinician and patient conversation in real-time.

However, Faulkner added that US clinicians typically document longer, more detailed notes than foreign clinicians, thus bringing increased documentation burden on themselves, according to the Vanderbilt press release. Faulkner said she observed US clinicians repeating information during documentation that has already been documented elsewhere in the EHR.

Throughout the start of 2020, Faulkner made it clear that Epic did not support the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology’s (ONC) interoperability rule, which intends to make it easier for patients to access and share patient medical information via mobile apps.

In January 2020, Faulkner wrote a letter that urged executives of major health systems across the country to take a stand with the EHR vendor and advocate against parts of the proposed rule. Although Faulkner said the company supports patient access to their data, she stated the rule would result in app makers gaining access to patient data without patient consent.

With the information blocking provisions and requirements compliance date set for April 5, 2021, Faulkner said the vendor has no plans to optimize its patient portal, MyChart. Specifically, she said Epic would not reprogram the patient portal to allow patients the option to customize notifications for specific medical details, such as test results, according to the Vanderbilt press release.

However, she explained that after she learned most of Epic’s clients did not realize the patient portal had been available in Spanish, she set up a customer rating system. The system aims to keep customers educated on the EHR system’s various capabilities.

In 2020, Epic launched Epic Health Research Network to publish COVID-19-related research and other forms of analysis from real-world evidence from the Epic EHR. Faulkner called the publishing process an “internal peer review,” and so far, the network has generated significant results, according to the Vanderbilt press release.

Faulkner said health systems had adopted the research methods and the EHRN has helped boost patient care for critically ill COVID-19 patients. For example, it has influenced clinicians to place COVID-19 patients on their sides and delay putting patients on ventilators.

Faulkner added that individuals who work in academic medicine could work with Epic, and other EHR vendors, to improve patient care.

“The first thing that comes to mind is to know us, and know the software and utilize it well,” Faulkner concluded. “Nobody utilizes the software as well as it should be done.”

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