In October, the electronic health record (EHR) vendor and health IT firm NextGen Healthcare, unveiled an artificial intelligence-powered notetaking tool. Known as NextGen Ambient Assist, the AI assistant promises to convert conversations between patients and clinicians into detailed notes—all within 30 seconds.
NextGen Ambient Assist follows other generative AI documentation products released in the last year, including offerings from Amazon, Microsoft, and Oracle. For clinicians already using the NextGen platform, Ambient Assist is a compelling solution thanks to its tight integration with the NextGen mobile app and electronic health record systems.
Ambient Assist: A SOAP Notes Tool to Boost Efficiency
NextGen announced Ambient Assist, describing the tool as an AI solution designed to boost healthcare providers' efficiency. According to NextGen, Ambient Assist is "an ambient listening solution that interprets patient-provider conversations in real time to summarize appointments and document care plans at unprecedented speeds." The tool accomplished this by delivering AI-generated subjective, objective, assessment, and plan (SOAP) notes based on provider-patient conversations all through the use of the NextGen Mobile App.
SOAP notes have been a standard documentation methodology in the healthcare industry since Dr. Lawrence Weed developed them at the University of Vermont in the late 1960s. The subjective component of SOAP describes a patient's complaints and their history with the illness or condition. A summary of the provider's observations comprises the objective element, while the assessment and plan cover the provider's diagnosis and recommended course of action.
The ubiquity of SOAP notes and the format's list of industry-standard abbreviations made them perfect for electronic health record (EHR) systems. Today, nearly all EHR systems, including NextGen EHR, support SOAP notes. As a standard, well-documented format used throughout healthcare, SOAP notes are also a good fit for the rapidly evolving capabilities of generative AI.
NextGen says Ambient Assist can save providers as much as two hours of documentation daily. This is due primarily to how Ambient Assist listens to patient-provider interactions, filters for the relevant details that fit in a SOAP note, and then generates concise and categorized documentation for each patient appointment.
More Than Transcription, More Than 90% Accurate
With every new generative AI product that emerged after the launch of ChatGPT, there are some common concerns. Chief among them is the product's accuracy. This is doubly important in the world of healthcare. NextGen's testing shows that Ambient Assist summarizes conversations with more than 90% accuracy.
That accuracy stems from generative AI's ability to interpret context, which sets Ambient Assisted apart from a standard transcription service. The SOAP notes generated by Ambient Assist are concise and to the point, which aligns with NextGen's overall goals for the product.
According to NextGen, Ambient Assist features conversational speaking intelligence, immediately recognizing the acronyms used in SOAP notes. This allows for immediate transcription without the help of scribes or other personnel. The tight integration with the NextGen Mobile app allows for automated insertion into the EHR, which accounts for considerable daily time savings.
As NextGen Healthcare President and CEO David Sides said, "Far beyond a transcription service, Ambient Assist is an intelligent ally that helps providers reclaim their time and serve patients more effectively," before adding, "This innovation is in response to the well-documented epidemic of physician burnout."
Physician burnout is an ongoing concern across all sectors of the healthcare industry. The latest research from the American Medical Association (AMA) shows that more than 50% of physicians report experiencing signs of burnout at least once a week. Physician burnout negatively impacts patient care as it leads to potentially dangerous errors and an overall lower quality of care.
A Trend Toward Healthcare Automation
Ambient Assist is not the first generative AI product in the healthcare space. Oracle announced its own clinical digital assistant in September, which is due to be released next year. Earlier in the summer, Amazon announced AWS HealthScribe, which also promises to summarize provider-patient conversations for easy transfer to EHR systems.
Meanwhile, Nuance Communications (a Microsoft subsidiary) recently announced its "clinical documentation copilot" Dragon Ambient eXperience (DAX), an AI notetaking product aimed at healthcare and scientific research. However, these offerings from tech giants may present a level of complexity and integration challenges that NextGen Ambient Assist avoids.
As a component of the NextGen Mobile app, Ambient Assist quickly and easily creates records in NextGen's EHR. NextGen also ensures that recordings are auto-deleted after they're no longer needed to help ensure patient privacy. Achieving this level of integration with the solutions from Oracle, Amazon, or Microsoft will likely require coding APIs and other customized solutions.
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