Microsoft and Epic launch AI program that drafts patient response at UW Health | Health


MADISON (WKOW) — Artificial Intelligence is prevalent in most areas of life, and now a hospital has announced its use of AI in healthcare communication. A generative AI program designed to respond to patient messages has officially launched, UW Health announced Thursday.

Microsoft and Epic, the creator of the patient portal MyChart, soft-launched the program in April last year among a small group of physicians. In September, the first cohort of nurses began using the generative AI program, which uses a large language model, or LLM, to draft responses in MyChart. The AI-drafted messages are then reviewed by clinical team members for tone, accuracy, and information before they are sent out as a response.

AI draft message UW Health Epic

“As long as I’ve been a nurse and as long as the electronic medical record has existed, we’ve been leveraging technology to better support our patients,” UW Health Chief Nurse Executive Rudy Jackson said. “Artificial intelligence is not a completely brand new, novel concept around what we do. It’s just the latest iteration of work.”

The pilot program was intended to address healthcare workforce shortages and burnout by generating draft messages for staff. Other uses of AI are in the works for healthcare professionals, including shift reports with automatic data entry, precision staffing to better address the management and care of patients, and more.

“We are not immune to the workforce shortages in health care, and we’re also seeing a growing demand for our care,” Jackson added. “We’re eager to try innovative methods to ensure our nurses have the tools they need to focus on caring for their patients.”

Patient information is kept private and secure within the electronic health records system. Nearly 100 nurses have used the AI, allowing them to send over 3,000 messages to patients. Used by over 30 departments at UW Health, it improves communication and improves the care experience for patients.

“We as nurses must be part of the conversation when it comes to using this technology to care for patients,” Jackson said. “It’s exciting to see our nurses investigate this technology and offer observations and recommendations to make it better.”

“For UW Health and for the larger workforce, what I look at with technology is really leveraging the technology to offload some of the administrative burdens that nurses have been under for years and years,” Jackson added.

“This has been a fascinating process, and one I’ve been glad to be part of,” Amanda Weber, Registered Nurse Clinic Supervisor at UW Health said. “I have found having a draft to start from helpful, and I’m glad I could provide feedback on improvements and features to ensure this can be a good tool for nurses and have a positive impact on our patients.”

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