Getting Started With AI

Getting Started With AI

Simple ways a chief surgeon’s team uses artificial intelligence today to prepare for the future.

Future applications of artificial intelligence (AI) in health care are vast. From predictive analytics to personalized medicine, AI has the potential to revolutionize the way health care is delivered. As leaders, it’s essential to prepare the environment and our staff for the innovation to come, starting with what is already available. Here are a few simple ways my team and I are using AI now.

Practicing with chatbots

Much of AI is driven by large language models like ChatGPT that are accessible to everyone. To help teams become adept with this kind of AI, leaders can regularly assign small tasks and projects. Nothing beats hands-on experience. For example, using ChatGPT, my staff has created novel recipes and shopping lists; generated an outline for a congratulatory letter to a colleague; and brainstormed potential ChatGPT uses for supporting faculty at the Vanderbilt School of Medicine.

The key to using ChatGPT is iterating — in other words, asking for clarifications or more ideas. When I tasked my administrative staff to brainstorm ideas for faculty support, they initially came up with over 20 ideas. I then asked them to repeat the exercises with ChatGPT and see if any more ideas emerged. Then I said do it again. With each iteration, staff grew more skilled at using the chatbot, and the ideas got better. Now they apply that skill to all kinds of administrative functions.

Learning the landscape

I also keep my team educated on the latest advancements in AI technologies. Platforms like Coursera, Udemy, and edX offer courses tailored for professionals with varying degrees of familiarity with the subject. Initiatives like online prompt engineering classes for certification are crucial to building a tech-savvy team open to AI technologies. I often send articles on AI’s latest advancements and applications in health care and administration or even controversies to discuss during staff meetings. As leaders in children’s health, we will need to be prepared to work with policymakers to ensure that AI is integrated in a way that maximizes its potential while minimizing risks and inequities.

Starting now with administration

In many areas, the future is already here. AI is incredibly helpful in reducing the amount of time and effort required for electronic health care documentation and other administrative tasks, such as scheduling, billing, communication, and documentation. This frees up time for executives and managers to focus on higher-level leadership tasks and for the health care team to focus on providing high-quality care to their patients.

Read next: A New Machine-Learning Tool Reduces Deterioration in Patients

For instance, with our approved internal chatbot, I created HIPAA-compliant electronic medical record smart phrases for clinic notes and templated operative notes. In non-clinical communications, I use chatbots to write outlines or first drafts, making writer’s block a thing of the past. Our administrative team uses an AI presentation app that takes text and creates presentations or handouts in less than a minute, which is useful for generating handouts during a time crunch.

In so many ways, artificial intelligence will have a significant impact on the future of surgery and health care in general, making it more efficient and effective for everyone involved. But first, we must prepare to make the most of it.

Written By:
Jeffrey Upperman, MD, FACS
Surgeon-In-Chief, Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt; Chair of Pediatric Surgery, Vanderbilt School of Medicine

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