Bots to help doctors reduce time spent on electronic records
March 31, 2023
Physician burnout has become a major issue of late. Growing patient volumes have contributed, but so have all the forms and paperwork that doctors must now get through – including coding, billing and reporting.
“Family doctors are spending 25 percent of the week on administrative work,” said Ted Alexander, vice president of the eHealth Centre of Excellence in Kitchener. “They call it ‘pajama time’, when they’re at home cleaning up their charts. It’s time they’d rather spend with their families.”
Alexander made his remarks in a presentation at the recent UpOnDigital Ontario conference, in Toronto, which was put on by Digital Health Canada.
Alexander said various jurisdictions across Canada are looking at ways to reduce the time spent on administrative tasks by doctors. Nova Scotia is talking about bringing it down to 15 percent, and others are targeting even more aggressive goals.
For its part, the eHealth Centre of Excellence has been working on its own solutions to this problem by creating a family of “bots”. As Alexander noted, these are not “walking, talking robots”, but instead, they’re pieces of software that once launched, can automatically carry out tasks.
One of them, called Bernie, works in the background of a clinic’s digital records to find diabetes patients in need of a follow-up, as well as missed billings for patients with diabetes. It also finds patients who’ve had their COVID-19 shots and automatically updates the immunization portion of the patient records. And it spots patients who still need COVID-19 immunizations, alerting doctors.
These are time-consuming and tedious processes when done manually. When performed by a robot, they’re fast and the results help the physician. They can also raise the quality of patient care.
According to the Centre, one primary care clinic’s use of the Bernie process to help document COVID vaccination information saved 87 hours of manual data entry.
Another bot, called Cody, goes through each patient record, opens the problem list, and automatically adds the appropriate ICD-9 and SNOMED codes. If clinical validation is needed, it will generate a report for review.
Currently, Cody can code for 18 conditions. “It cleans up and standardizes the data,” said Alexander. “It improves data quality.” Improved EMR data quality provides potential for proactive care for patients, population health management and data sharing.
And a bot named Sharon is able to connect the information in a doctor’s EMR and link it with the CHRIS system used by Ontario’s home care providers. The EMR can also be updated with patient data stored in the CHRIS system, ensuring that both doctors and home care providers have the most up to date information.
Alexander said that about 400 Ontario doctors are now using the centre’s bots. The goal, he commented, “is to have every clinician in Ontario have access to a bot.”
The eHealth Centre of Excellence is continuing to expand the capabilities of its bots. To date, bot development has been supported by an innovation grant from Joule, a subsidiary of the Canadian Medical Association, as well as Ontario’s Ministry of Health, Ontario Health, and several Ontario Health Teams.
Organizations across Canada interested in learning about partnering opportunities can contact the eHealth Centre of Excellence via their website at www.ehealthce.ca.