How AI and Automation Can Address Clinician Burnout and Efficiency

By April Miller, Senior Writer,
LinkedIn: April Miller
X: @rehackmagazine

Burnout is a problem in many industries, but it’s particularly problematic in healthcare. In addition to being all too common, stress and burnout among clinicians can affect patient outcomes and limit hospitals’ capacity to treat people. Artificial intelligence (AI) and automation could help.

More than half of all physicians reported feeling burnt out in 2021, almost double the rate in 2020. That’s a worrying statistic, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Here’s how hospitals can use AI and automation to turn things around.

1. Streamlining Documentation

Documentation and similar administrative tasks are some of the biggest causes of healthcare burnout. That’s no surprise, considering a single form can take 8-30 minutes, and any industry as heavily regulated as this one involves a lot of paperwork.

Paperwork is repetitive, data-heavy, unengaging and takes time away from patients, so it’s not ideal when done manually. Thankfully, this type of work is precisely what AI excels at. AI and robotic process automation (RPA) can automate data entry, file organization and similar administrative work to give healthcare professionals more time to spend with patients.

When doctors and nurses spend more of their time saving lives and less on paperwork, they’ll feel more engaged. As an added bonus, AI is often more accurate than humans in data-oriented tasks, so it’ll reduce transcription errors. That means less time wasted on fixing mistakes, giving clinicians even more time to perform valuable, patient-focused work.

2. Automating Regulatory Compliance

A 2022 study found that 91% of physicians feel their regulatory burdens are getting worse. AI can help in this area, too, by automatically ensuring hospitals and private practices remain compliant.

When AI handles the paperwork, it ensures the hospital files the right forms and does so correctly every time. Other AI models can review a practice’s workflows and documentation practices and compare them to current regulations. If something doesn’t add up, the AI can alert staff to correct the issue before they run into legal trouble.

AI can also automate things like patient record security and privacy to minimize HIPAA-related errors. As a result, medical staff won’t have to stress as much about meeting these rising standards and can focus on patient care. Their work will then be more engaging and rewarding, preventing burnout.

3. Managing Routine Medical Tasks

As AI and automation improve, they’re starting to manage more than just paperwork. Some AI systems and robots can also handle basic medical tasks that — while important — aren’t engaging and take a lot of time.

Routine tasks like taking temperatures, checking on patients’ vitals and delivering medication take up a significant part of the workday. Automating them through AI-monitored sensors or robotics allows hospitals to add hours of time to some workers’ schedules. Clinicians will then feel less overwhelmed and can focus on things that feel more like they make a difference.

Interactive tasks are crucial to boosting engagement, which prevents burnout and turnover, but repetitive actions don’t feel interactive for long. Automating these low-level, monotonous tasks ensures people’s work day is varied enough to stay engaging without a packed schedule weighing them down.

4. Allocating Resources More Effectively

Many hospitals also struggle to allocate staff, equipment and other resources effectively. That leads to confusion and long waiting times between tasks, which adds unnecessary stress and wasted time. AI can help because it is often better at realizing which and where resources should go.

Machine learning can streamline and improve hospital hiring practices and identify which patients are most in need of which resources. That way, hospitals can ensure they always have enough hands on deck and don’t have to question where to use which tools. These improvements lead to fewer staff shortages and equipment confusion.

When these practices become more effective, ensuring everyone gets the care they need becomes easier. On top of making hospitals more efficient, that will make them less stressful for their employees.

5. Enabling Better Care

Finally, automation and AI can enable a higher standard of care. Part of that comes from giving medical professionals more time and energy to spend on what they do best. The other part comes from AI offering helpful insights to do their jobs better.

AI excels at making accurate predictions, so it’s a great tool for early diagnoses. Similarly, it can help doctors determine the best course of action for each patient in less time. With these data-driven insights to guide their decisions, clinicians can ensure they’re delivering the best care they can.

Improving patient outcomes is the most important task a hospital can do. On top of helping patients, it will help hospital staff feel more confident in their roles and assure them that they’re making a difference. Those feelings will stave off burnout.

AI and Automation Address Many Healthcare Woes

The nature of healthcare work inevitably involves some stress, but it doesn’t have to be as stressful as it is today. If medical organizations can capitalize on AI and automation, they can make things easier for their staff.

When clinicians’ work becomes more efficient and engaging, their outcomes will improve, too. That’s good news for them and the patients they treat, so the time to embrace AI and automation is now.