Doctors don’t become doctors so they can fill out forms. Hundreds of thousands of physicians, nurses, and other clinical staff log massive amounts of time with documentation at the cost of patient time. The actual time spent on paper instead of with patients varies but the perception is constant. In an oft-quoted 2013 study published in the Journal of Graduate Medical Education, 92% of surveyed clinical staff reported excessive documentation responsibilities. Survey respondents cited limited time with patients and little time to teach others or their own further training. A 2012 survey of 2,000 physicians cited paperwork and administrative tasks as the major cause of stress and burnout.

Earlier this month at HIMSS 2018, Nuance Communications and Epic announced the integration of the Nuance’s artificial intelligence (AI)-enhanced, voice-enabled virtual assistance platform with Epic’s EHR system. Hoping the technological arranged marriage will lead to clinical bliss, or at least ease the documentation pain, both companies highlight the potential for improving patient care by freeing clinical staff from arduous administrative work. Three implementations employ the joint VA/AI/EHR technologies. Epic Haiku adds voice recognition for voice-driven documentation. Epic Rover enables staff to enter and confirm vital signs and patient information. With Epic Cadence scheduling personnel can check schedules and make appointments. Epic Haiku and Epic Rover both run on iOS and Android mobile devices.

Real-time, voice-driven documentation doesn’t entirely free healthcare workers from administrative tasks or the responsibility for complete, accurate reporting. Time saved from transcribing scribbled or mumbled notes can add up, however, pointing toward a potentially much longer list of tasks for the voice, AI, and EHR triple threat.