Banner Health Bets Big on AI for Clinicians

By Eric Wicklund

One of the nation’s largest health systems is scaling an AI tool across the enterprise in hopes of giving doctors more time in front of their patients.

Arizona-based Banner Health is giving clinicians in all 33 of its hospitals across six states access to a tool within the EHR that summarizes clinical notes. The technology, developed by Regard, is designed to reduce the clinician’s time spent in front of a computer and facilitate easier access to decision support for care management.

The project is indicative of a trend in healthcare, with health systems and hospitals across the country putting AI to work handling back-end and administrative tasks that otherwise would be done by doctors or nurses. Industry leaders see these projects as “low-hanging fruit” that prove AI’s value and offer immediate ROI.

“We are looking for multiple ways to take tasks away from clinicians and replace that with time they have in front of the bedside,” says Susan Lee, DO, MBA, CP, the health system’s Physician Executive for Hospital Based Medicine. “We want to be AI-enabled.”

Lee says the health system, which tested the tool at Banner Thunderbird Medical Center in 2022, took the unusual step of asking that each clinician be trained one-on-one, rather than via video or in a classroom. The idea is to personalize the clinician’s use of AI and make it more meaningful.

“I think for this tool, the ability to impact such a broad swath of clinical care in a meaningful way made us want to pursue the more personal route,” she says.

This also helps with buy-in, as clinicians come to understand that AI can augment their workflows rather than replacing them. Lee points out that clinicians need to select the tool in the EHR, review the summary, and act on it.

“There’s also a human at the end of the AI loop,” she says. “The physician is still making all the clinical decisions. This tool is helping the physician sort through information in a more rapid way and is also sorting through a very large portfolio of information that the physician could manually sort though, [but] it just does it a lot faster.”

Whether the tool actually improves documentation or care management remains to be seen. Lee says the health system will at first keep tabs on how many clinicians are using it and how often. They’ll also look at whether the tool captures all the information a doctor needs and whether that summary is accurate.

“Banner is looking to be a front-runner in many of these scenarios,” Lee says of the opportunity to influence a tool’s development. “We do want to be influencers. I think everybody should try playing with it.”

Eric Wicklund is the associate content manager and senior editor for Innovation, Technology, and Pharma for HealthLeaders.