Survey: Despite pandemic financial woes, providers plan continued AI investment

The survey results were culled from current healthcare industry users of AI tools and future AI users that participated in Black Book surveys throughout 2020.

The COVID-19 pandemic may have had a serious impact on the financial stability of many healthcare organizations, but that’s not likely to slow down investment in AI any time soon.

That’s according to a recent survey by Black Book Research that surveyed 540 health information management executives and found that nearly half of healthcare organizations are currently using AI in one form or another, and 90% of those interviewed expect widespread implementation to proceed over the next five years.

While nearly 400 of the respondents said they “have not yet fully implemented,” nor are they “optimally using AI-enhanced coding, CDI, speech recognition or transcription technology,” 95% “are optimistic that AI technology can streamline document creation and enable clinicians to capture a holistic patient history to boost outcomes but also improve revenue integrity.”

"AI-enhanced CDI allows providers to explore new opportunities with payers because hospitals have the data to show where quality outcomes are performing best," said Doug Brown, President of Black Book, in a statement. "Improvement of clinical documentation provides the opportunity to maximize reimbursement and CDI is the process of enhancing medical data collection, improving quality of care while maximizing payer reimbursement income. It (has) definitely maximized the revenue cycle efficiency.” 

According to Black Book, “commercial and public payers are now denying about one in every 12 (8%) of submitted claims, costing health systems nearly 2.5% of net patient revenue.”

Not surprisingly, then, 94% of providers polled aim to implement more sophisticated clinical documentation improvement tools that use AI to boost the speed, accuracy and efficiency of coders. Sixty-eight percent have retained committed funds to AI coding improvements in FY 2021.

In what will likely spur on executive plans, the survey found that 97% of hospitals confirm documented quality improvements and increases in case mix index within six months of AI-enhanced CDI implementation. 

With that outcome obviously in mind, 86 percent of health systems' CFOs said the biggest motivator for adoption AI coding support tools is to provide improvements case mix index improvements, which can help increase revenues.

In 145 hospitals surveyed with between 150-450 beds, the average case mix overall improvement  was an average $2.3 million in financial improvements from AI-enhanced CDI initiatives from Q3 2019 to Q3 2020.