Adopting AI In Behavioral Health Practices: Three Factors for Success

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Carina Edwards

By Carina Edwards, CEO, Kipu Health.

According to one report, business executives mentioned Artificial Intelligence (AI) more than 30,000 times in earnings calls at the end of 2023. AI, and debates around fears, capabilities and ethics have dominated discussions in both the board room and at the water cooler in most industries. I’ve experienced several major technology shifts and innovations throughout my career but the buzz around AI is groundbreaking.

In behavioral health, we’re talking about AI every day and uncovering how it can be a great complement to other technologies used in treatment centers and practices. Our provider clients have reported it boosts note-taking and documentation processes with improvements in accuracy and efficiency. Data produced by Eleos shows providers have reported that documentation time has been reduced up to 50%, allowing clinical teams to spend more focused time with patients.

Providers leveraging AI also said they have 90% of their notes submitted within 24 hours, reducing documentation backlog and avoiding denials due to late submissions. Another key benefit is care teams indicate they’re able to use AI insights to deliver evidence-based best practices, which is excellent for improving patient outcomes.

Testing the waters
Our colleagues at All Points North (APN), a multi-site, 77-bed Behavioral Health system based in Colorado, decided to move ahead with an AI solution. APN was already using Kipu’s EMR, so they chose to go with Eleos, which is integrated with the Kipu EMR. Eleos focuses on supporting documentation and note taking in therapeutic sessions through their AI solution, which was a key area APN was hoping to improve.

Andrea Boorse, senior manager of operations at APN, shared that their clients have two individual therapy sessions each week, rather than one—which means double the documentation. When they became aware of AI solutions that could listen in on sessions and help with that documentation, they decided to test the waters with Eleos’s Scribe solution, which automatically transforms raw conversations into progress note suggestions.

APN found that the tool started to understand and recognize therapists’ style and language, making the notes get more specific and tailored to each client. This has been a big help for APN since it now takes an average of 11 minutes to complete a note, compared to the industry standard of 15 minutes.

Embarking on AI implementation
With benefits like APN has experienced, I’ve seen a shared, cautious excitement across our industry that continues to suffer from provider and staffing burnout and attrition. By removing some of these administrative burdens, they hope to combat staffing issues and improve patient reach and care.

And while there is good reason to remain cautious, I think providers can confidently move towards AI solutions by focusing on three key areas.

Make ethical use your first priority
Before implementing any AI solution, it’s important to fully vet the vendor. Make sure your vendor shares your values around patient privacy and ethical use of data. Your AI solution must have data anonymization, encryption and robust privacy protections to ensure patient confidentiality.

Also, because voice-based AI technology relies on recorded conversations, some patients may feel uneasy. Clear communication and gathering patient permissions are keys to ensuring they know why you’re using the technology and where the conversation will “live” later.

Define the “why” behind your AI use
With the promises of AI, it’s tempting to jump on board quickly. Some providers already feel like they’re behind if they’re not using AI solutions but it’s important to remember, it’s still early. Before implementation, define your objectives.

If the solution you’re considering supports better patient care, adds efficiency, reduces burnout, etc. then you know you’re on the right track. If it’s not a fit today, you can always give it time and revisit down the road.

Keep your eyes wide open
AI can certainly serve a technology for good and we’re seeing that with our provider clients across the country. They’re reporting a positive impact in their practices with insights into care decisions and reduced administrative work.

However, it’s important to stay on top of how AI is evolving.

What works for your practice today in terms of governance and integration with other technologies can change. Rely on your trusted technology partners who are on top of the latest AI innovations. Watch for technology updates and talk to your colleagues in other practices to learn from each other. It’s also important to check in with your staff to make sure it’s delivering the benefits you hoped to achieve. At the end of the day, your technology solutions should serve as a powerful convener and help you deliver excellent patient care.

There’s no easy path to knowing exactly if or when the time is right to add AI to your practice but by staying focused on these key areas, you can confidently forge your path.

Remember that adopting AI is not about replacing, supplanting, or getting in the way of human interactions. Rather, make a plan focused on using AI to liberate your staff to focus more on patient care and interaction and you’ll have a lot of success integrating this groundbreaking technology.


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