The advent of artificial intelligence (AI) has revolutionized several industries, and healthcare is no exception. AI applications have already proven invaluable when it comes to diagnostics, patient care, and personalized treatment plans. While these are all certainly impressive, it should be noted that AI in healthcare is still only a tool, not a replacement for the unique human qualities of interaction and empathy. One area where this is particularly relevant is telephone nurse triage. When patients call looking for advice, they’re seeking human connection as much as guidance. Here’s how triage nurses can leverage the technical capabilities of deep learning to improve patient outcomes.
Artificial Intelligence vs. Augmented Intelligence
Our focus as a healthcare technology company has always been about making it easier for patients to find the care that they need. A large part of that is helping providers get them to that care.
When patients first call their doctors, nonclinical operators usually take down messages about their symptoms and forward that information to triage nurses for review. With the introduction of our AI platform, MedMessage Assist, these operators now have a means of checking their messages to make sure that they haven’t missed any details that nurses will need to identify when those messages are urgent.
It’s important to note that this tool doesn’t replace the interactions that operators have with patients. It merely prompts them to ask additional questions when necessary, based on the text they input while listening to those patients’ concerns.
Think of it like the spelling or grammar suggestions you get when typing up a document in a word processor. You aren’t letting the program write for you, but you are allowing it to check your work for syntax and punctuation that can help you finetune the information that you want to convey.
In this manner, we sometimes refer to MedMessage Assist as augmented intelligence, rather than artificial.
The system itself is intuitive and self-teaching, so that operators are able to quickly learn how to use it by following prompts that are similar to what they’ll eventually experience with patient callers.
If machine learning can teach nonclinical operators, why not triage nurses, too? That’s the reasoning that inspired us to develop a nurse triage AI training simulator that gives aspiring nurses practice with different types of patient calls and situations.
These situations start with beginner scenarios where the format of the 10-step triage process and its questions are all laid out for reference and review. The AI uses natural language processing (NLP) to listen as the nurse asks it questions before it responds accordingly. In those instances when a nurse may deviate from the established script, or the AI is unable to hear them, it will prompt the nurse to repeat what they’ve said or to ask a different question.
With sufficient practice and muscle memory, nurses advance to more demanding calls where the 10-step process is removed so that they can fully demonstrate their understanding of the entire phone triage process.
This system can be highly customized to provide training for a variety of caller types, behaviors, and situations, all with the purpose of preparing nurses for how difficult real phone calls can be. Each situation can be repeated as many times as needed for the nurse to understand and progress.
Not only does this AI platform allow them in-depth training, it also frees up the time and resources of your established triage nurses.
Again, this training is meant only as a tool. When it comes to patient care, the human element will always be necessary.
The Human Element
AI can help us streamline patient communication, improve the efficiency of our call center, and make sure urgent cases receive prompt attention. At the same time, our dedicated nursing staff ensures that the human element is not compromised, as they offer the empathy, understanding, and expertise that AI cannot provide.
Empathy and Human Connection. A vital aspect of patient care is the ability to empathize and build rapport with patients. AI may be able to process information quickly and accurately, but it lacks genuine human connections. Patients need to feel understood and supported, which is what nonclinical operators, triage nurses, and healthcare providers can offer.
Complex Decision-Making. Medical decision-making often involves complex ethical dilemmas and considerations that require a nuanced understanding of human values. AI systems, as advanced as they are, still lack the ability to comprehend and apply these moral and ethical considerations.
Adaptability and Intuition. AI systems rely on the data they have been trained on, which can limit their ability to adapt to new, unusual, or difficult calls. In contrast, human healthcare professionals can draw upon their intuition and experience to make judgments in unforeseen circumstances, as well as reassure patients.
In short, the human element is essential because it: a) helps build trust between nurses and callers, b) provides emotional support to patients who need encouragement, and c) takes into account the nuances of cultural and social factors that may influence patient health.
Other Examples of AI in Healthcare
Although these are not directly under TriageLogic’s current offerings, it’s worth noting additional areas where AI can benefit medical professionals.
Diagnostics. AI algorithms can analyze medical images with increased speed and precision, helping providers arrive at accurate diagnoses and faster treatment.
Drug Development. AI can accelerate the drug discovery process by analyzing vast amounts of data to identify new therapeutic targets, predict drug efficacy, and review clinical trials.
Personalized Treatment Plans. AI can analyze an individual’s genetic makeup, lifestyle, and medical history to create tailored treatment plans, optimizing their care and improving health outcomes.
Telemedicine. AI-powered chatbots can provide preliminary consultations, triage symptoms, and answer patients’ questions, thereby increasing accessibility to medical care and reducing the burden on healthcare professionals.
How Do You Feel About the Adoption of AI in Healthcare?
While AI has significantly enhanced the healthcare industry, it is crucial to acknowledge its limitations and ensure that it does not replace the human element in patient care. If you’d like to learn more about the AI technologies we’ve outlined above, how they can benefit your nurse triage, and how they can improve your patient outcomes, let’s schedule some time for a discussion. Contact us today to start that process.
TriageLogic is a URAC-accredited, physician-led provider of top-quality nurse telehealth technology, remote patient monitoring, and medical call center solutions. Founded in 2007, the TriageLogic Group now serves more than 9,000 physicians and covers over 42 million lives nationwide.