Epic-linked voice AI improves provider experience at Franciscan Missionaries

Photo: Jenny M. Smith

Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System, based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, serves patients in Louisiana and Mississippi through a network of nine hospitals and numerous clinics and physicians. The health system’s unified physician organization comprises more than 1,100 adult and pediatric primary care physicians and specialists.


Franciscan Missionaries has long held to the importance and value of leveraging innovation to support the Triple Aim. Specifically, how can innovative technologies improve access to quality care while enhancing the overall experience for patients and providers.

"Enabling tele-stroke services to surrounding community hospitals is one example of our early initiatives," said Jenny M. Smith, senior director of digital health. "The offering of virtual visits as early as 2018 provided a firm foundation from which to expand quickly when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

"A more recent evolution of our commitment to innovation is our partnership with Suki AI for their AI-enabled digital assistant," she continued. "A primary aim of this partnership is to reduce provider burden related to the EHR, enabling them to be more engaged and present with the patient."

The core purpose of implementing Suki AI was to help improve the provider experience and reduce burnout. Providers are vital to the organization so staff wanted to add a technology that would not only give them time back but also help them practice to the best of their ability and focus on what really matters – their patients.

"Suki was an ideal technology because it offers flexibility and integrates seamlessly into current workflows within our Epic EHR," Smith explained. "This creates a very streamlined process and allows physicians to use the solutions in whichever way they see fit, whether that is using dictation, command, adding ICD-10 codes or simply pulling up key information from the EHR, like medication lists or past medical history, all without needing to be tethered to a computer or the EHR.

"The vendor's AI has the ability to help reduce burnout, which is still a major issue post-pandemic, by decreasing the time it takes to finish common administrative burdens like note documentation," she continued. "The company has developed a suite of solutions that address this specific issue resulting in improved provider experience."


Suki offers providers voice capabilities – multiple ways to engage with the platform, depending on the provider’s need and preference.

"Franciscan Missionaries is committed to providing an excellent provider experience, so helping to reduce the factors contributing to provider burnout is important for us," Smith explained. "In rural areas, we have highly specialized providers who often handle a significant workload. By leveraging AI, our aim is to reduce administrative burdens and enable them to practice with greater effectiveness and efficiency."


Franciscan Missionaries providers have flexibility in how they use the AI.

"That’s one aspect we really valued – it can be seamlessly woven into workflows and still let the providers be in control," Smith noted. "Some are using it for documentation purposes, some for partial dictation, and some use the digital assistant capabilities such as information retrieval and coding.

"This all maps back to our goals of enhancing the provider experience, improving patient care and reducing costs," she added.


Franciscan Missionaries has subjective and objective metrics in terms of measuring success with the AI technology.

"The subjective measurement is hearing directly from our providers," Smith reported. "This is vital to understanding whether or not the technology is benefiting them. This can be anything from them saying, 'It's 5 p.m. and I have zero open notes,” to “I was able to attend my son’s soccer game.'

"My favorite quote came from a provider recently who commented that 'Today was such a great day' because he was able to leave work on time with all notes completed, go home and do the things he enjoys," she continued. "Comments like that make us so thankful for technologies designed to improve the provider experience."

The objective measurements are based on time-to-close encounters, reduction in amended encounters, patient surveys, and more, she said.

"We’ve found there is a direct correlation between the patient expressing they had a great experience and the provider being more present during visits because they don’t need to focus on taking notes or looking through records," she explained.


Look into AI technologies, Smith advised.

"Since we’ve started working with our vendor, they have made multiple adjustments to their product based on feedback from our providers, which have made the product much more scalable at our organization and showcases their commitment and service to the clinicians," she noted.

"And make sure any system you're looking to implement fully integrates with the EHR you’re using to create a seamless process," she concluded. "You don’t want to solve one issue while also creating another."

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