During the past two years and counting, hospital and health care staff have been overwhelmed by the COVID-19 pandemic with droves of workers quitting their jobs as part of the Great Resignation. Could artificial intelligence (AI) play a role in helping fill some of the gaps? A recent flurry of stories suggests it could.
Hospitals such as Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles are turning to AI — computer systems or computerized programs that perform tasks normally done by humans — for help with assorted tasks, according to a story in Becker’s Hospital Review. Cedars-Sinai has employed twin clinical assistant robots to reduce nurses’ daily workload. The robots, which feature heart-shaped eyes that light up or make beeping noises, use AI, machine learning technology and social engineering to interact with clinicians and patients, performing simple tasks such as collecting medicine from the pharmacy. Within six weeks of their implementation last September, they saved clinical teams an estimated 300 miles of walking.
The technology comes at a pivotal time. Roughly 6% of hospitals (329 of 5,540) reporting staffing levels in the nation are experiencing critical staff shortages, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services posted March 2 and reported by Becker’s. Meanwhile, about 17%, or 950 hospitals, are anticipating shortages within the next week. The three states with the highest percent of hospitals experiencing critical staff shortages are South Carolina (26.67%), Kentucky (21.7%) and Nebraska (18.95%).
“Stress has become a serious issue for physicians in recent years,” Robert Budman, M.D., chief medical information officer at Nuance Communications, told Healthcare IT News, in an article on leveraging AI to relieve physicians. “First, physicians have to navigate how to get their clinical work done in a busy day. On top of that, there are administrative burdens placed on them by the government, insurance plans and employers. And then, there’s simply the crush that they are feeling with their workload being exacerbated by COVID-19.”
Some AI technologies can allow health care organizations to alleviate workers’ pressure by anticipating nursing or ED staffing needs, or predicting turnover of beds, or can help address clinical documentation frustrations, Budman said.