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Pilot project sees Ontario family doctors use AI to cut down on paperwork

Ontario says it is expanding a pilot program that will see family doctors use artificial intelligence technology to transcribe and summarize patient visits.

Some 150 primary care clinics will participate in the project, which is being administered and evaluated by OntarioMD, a subsidiary of the Ontario Medical Association (OMA) focused on technological innovation.

The pilot program is part of the province’s ongoing bid to reduce time family doctors spend doing paperwork and other office administration, Health Minister Sylvia Jones said Wednesday.

The AI software is called Scribe. It can summarize conversations with patients who consent to its use into electronic medical records, Jones said.

According to an accompanying news release, research in other jurisdictions suggests AI software can reduce the time doctors spend on after-hours paperwork by up to 50 per cent and allow them to see more patients.

Dr. Andrew Park, OMA president, said the “burden of unnecessary administration takes up an alarming 19 hours a week” for physicians in Ontario, preventing them from seeing more patients and achieving a healthy work-life balance. 

Roughly 2.3 million Ontarians do not have a family doctor, a figure that is expected to double in the coming two to three years, Park said. 

The OMA warned earlier this week that fewer medical students are choosing to pursue family medicine, partly due to the time primary care physicians spend doing unpaid paperwork.

As part of Wednesday’s announcement, the OMA said it is also working with the health ministry to streamline and simplify 12 key government medical forms that are burdensome and time-consuming for family doctors.

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