Although medical products and services are critical to the public, the healthcare industry has always suffered from overwhelming demand for labor. In Canada, the medical staffing shortages that have persisted for decades had a consequential impact: last year, these health job vacancies caused medical facilities to take drastic measures to cope, including temporarily shutting down emergency rooms.
Fortunately, nurses and doctors can be offered some relief with emerging technologies in healthcare. Normally, human medical administrative assistants handle administrative tasks like answering phone calls and emails, scheduling appointments, and organizing patient records. But the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) medical assistants has shown that machines can do these and more.
Here’s what you need to know about human medical administrative assistants and their new AI-powered counterparts.
Medical administrative assistants are critical to the day-to-day operations in medical facilities. They’re usually the first to greet patients when they enter a clinic or hospital and offer assistance throughout the visitation process, from recording medical information to issuing invoices. Other responsibilities may include corresponding with laboratories for tests, ordering and inventorying supplies, and organizing files.
Medical administrative assistants must have strong decision-making, interpersonal, time management, and organizational skills. They’re significant assets to busy medical facilities because they keep everything running smoothly, allowing doctors and nurses to operate efficiently and focus on clinical concerns. Moreover, should something arise, they can be flexible and make adjustments to solve those problems.
An AI assistant is programmed to automate many of the tasks that a human administrative assistant is required to do. These include setting appointments, taking patient information, and facilitating payments. However, they’re equipped with complex algorithms that allow them to go beyond these functions.
In some cases, AI medical assistants can automatically transcribe or even draft doctors’ notes and provide diagnoses that can serve as second opinions. They can also help patients with follow-up care and check the availability of prescription drug alternatives instantly. With these functions, they can take medical administrative assistance to new heights. However, their emergence raises the question: will they eventually make human medical administrative assistants obsolete?
Despite the broad functionality of AI assistants, there are some tasks that only humans can carry out. Some responsibilities that human administrative assistants have, like reviewing and answering correspondence, answering phones, and greeting visitors, are better accomplished with a human touch. Tasks like these need human judgment to ensure arrangements and communications are agreeable. For instance, although AI can answer many patient questions, human assistants are still critical for ensuring that language is understandable and that patients feel empathy. Some tasks like making travel arrangements, may also be outside of an AI assistant’s programming to do effectively. After all, AI is not infallible. There may be cases where they fail to process patients’, suppliers’, or medical staff’s requests. With human medical administrative assistants onsite, these issues can be easily solved without requiring busy doctors or nurses to intervene.
Ultimately, it's clear that AI and any emerging technologies should be used to supplement human labor — not replace it. Virtual assistants or AI medical scribes can help providers and medical administrative assistants avoid burnout by helping them practice greater control over their operations. However, there are still physical tasks — like taking phone calls, organizing storage, and accommodating client requests — that must be done by a human assistant. Without this human element, AI assistants may be counterproductive to the relief they aim to provide.
Human medical administrative assistants are critical to keeping medical facilities running smoothly. By employing AI solutions, their jobs are made much easier, so they can focus on assisting patients and ensuring everything runs smoothly.
Read more of our blogs here.