Dr. Bhana, chair of the ACR’s Communications and Marketing Committee, has high hopes that technology will one day provide predictive pharmacology for his patients. In the short term, he is most excited about the prospect of AI relieving some of the administrative pressures weighing on his practice.
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“More than 50% of my day has nothing to do with practicing medicine. That’s unfortunate and has a real impact on patients,” he says. “It also factors highly into physician burnout, so anything that can augment or automate the physician experience is really important.”
A good first step, he explains, would be automation in the areas of patient histories, notes and ordering labs, images and medications. Take, for example, the idea of a digital-assistant device—similar to an Amazon Echo or Google Home (if HIPAA approved, of course)—in an exam room with the patient and provider. The device, Dr. Bhana says, could listen in and act as a digital scribe, entering notes into the medical record and preparing X-ray orders or methotrexate refills.
“[Let the system] cue up the order, so all you have to do is review and approve,” he says, going one step further and likening this system to Amazon’s One-Click ordering. “That way, I can focus on a higher level task, such as what the heck is wrong with this patient and how can I treat them?”
Dr. Yeung agrees that technology will soon enhance clinicians’ ability to practice medicine more efficiently and “help reduce the incidence of errors.” She says rheumatology should explore AI integrations with in-home sensors and monitors to track and assess patient activity, diet, medication compliance, etc.
“For example, are patients showing signs of depression because they aren’t moving, aren’t looking out the window, aren’t eating, aren’t having social interactions?” she says. According to Dr. Yeung, these kinds of monitors are in place for chronic senior care and could be interesting for rheumatologists to consider.5
Dr. Bhana says he can see a not-too-distant future in which data, technology and the physician combine to move the needle on patient outcomes.
“It is a big data problem to tackle, but it is not an insurmountable problem,” Dr. Bhana says. “The Holy Grail for all of us in rheumatology is predictive pharmacology. What do we get from a data point of view that tells me ahead of time what the best therapy is for this patient? … I have patients who go through 10 different drugs before we find the one that works.”