What Will New AI Scribe Programs Mean for Physician Workload and Patient Care in Ontario?

Published on
May 7, 2024
Written by
David Thomas
Read time

David Thomas

Digital health lead/expert

At a time in which we face an unprecedented shortage of healthcare workers, the growing administrative burden on physicians, as well as other health care providers, is a logical place of focus for health system leaders and government.  And so, in this context, it is interesting to consider the recent announcements related to the use of “autoscribe” technology in Family Practice in Ontario and the potential benefit it could bring:  

  • Ontario launches AI Scribe Program to halve doctors' paperwork 

Ontario is launching an innovative artificial intelligence program aimed at reducing the paperwork burden on family doctors while also eliminating the requirement for sick notes when employees are off work due to illness. 

  • WELL Health and HEALWELL AI launch next-gen AI doctor'sassistant 

WELL Health Technologies Corp. and HEALWELL AI have launched a second generation of WELLAI Decision Support (WAIDS), a doctor's AI assistant, that could screen for diseases like kidney disease, hypertension, and diabetes, help doctors assess a patient's risk and plan care. 

We now have an interesting situation where policy,regulation, technology and practice are all seemingly aligned, which is wonderful news...and about time!  These solutions are a fantastic use of AI as a supportive tool to clinicians, transforming practices by reducing paperwork and increasing efficiency, and allowing doctors to focus on the patient and increasing engagement and satisfaction for patients. Assessing the risks and managing the deployment has taken time and much leadership across the system.  You can guess that by the time the Ministry announces this, much work has been done by Ontario MD, eHealth Centre for Excellence (eCE) and Women's College Hospital Institute for Health System Solutions and Virtual Care (WIHV) amongst others.  

But beyond the face value of these announcements on this particular technology in Ontario, you might want to consider the current situation across the country. As with most technology innovations, there are different regulatory and policy announcements in each province as they wrestle with how to manage the technology, and in particular the data – to maintain privacy yet improve the technology.  Practitioners and organizations are clearly moving with to test adoption far in advance of mainstream regulation and policy. Even once approved, with the risk and benefits reasonably identified,the adoption curves will take time for usage to take hold.   

  • How are other stakeholders in the system keeping abreast of the development of this AI technology as it hits mainstream?   
  • How can we learn so as to enable adoption of other related AI tools that are right behind? Predictive analytics? 
  • How are we increasing lobbying for increased adoption of this tool which arguably has been trending there since Nuance, NVIDIA and Saykara were announcing it in 2020? 
  • How do we proliferate adoption across Home Care and Long Term care where we have significant charting burdens? 
  • How do we influence the regulatory and policy environment to hasten its proliferation while being mindful of the inevitable pitfalls insecurity, privacy, consent? 

These are all critical questions to consider,particularly in the context of the opportunity to advocate for change, to move faster for adoption, to evaluate, address and put context on the risks and benefits so that we can use new technologies to help transform the system.  It will be an interesting environment to continue to watch unfold.  


Subscribe to our newsletter

Thanks for joining our newsletter
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.