Generative AI

Prescribing the Future: AI, Voice, and Virtual Solutions for the Clinical Workforce

Even before the rise and fall of the COVID pandemic, another epidemic has long burdened the healthcare system: provider burnout. In 1974, psychologist Herbert Freudenberger first observed and described the phenomenon among physicians, noting that “a greater and great number of physical hours are being spent [in the clinic], but less and less is being accomplished.”1

In 2022, shortages2 and burnout3 in the clinical workforce were the top concerns cited by hospital CEOs.4 Unfortunately, the trends show no signs of slowing in 2024.5 The costs to attract and retain this clinical workforce — where staff shortages drive material competition between employers — are rising, too, as hospitals’ labor expenses ballooned 258% from 2019 to 2022.6

But there are bright spots on the horizon for our overburdened and underresourced healthcare system, as we’ll share at the upcoming ViVE Conference (join us at Booth 1118!).

Here are the essential technologies that will mitigate the efficiency challenges plaguing modern medicine:

Each alone may help. Combined, and as we’ll explore in this article, these technologies foster higher job satisfaction and lower turnover rates among providers, as well as better outcomes for their patients.7 They also allow highly trained and specialized clinicians to “practice at the top of licensure,” which means each provider can:

  • focus efforts on the highest-quality patient care;
  • solve more complex problems;
  • collaborate across disciplines;
  • create stretch opportunities for junior clinicians and staff to complete tasks that require less expertise.

And, as renowned healthcare leader Dr. Sachin Jain has explored, top-of-license practice should result in more sophisticated cross-care team collaboration — not isolate individual practitioners by allocating work to more junior team members. Tomorrow’s most successful technologies in healthcare enable efficient, interdisciplinary collaboration as providers work together to solve the most complex health problems.

In support of the world’s leading healthcare companies, my WillowTree colleagues and I are actively working with clients to solve the challenges identified by Dr. Jain and countless other healthcare experts. Together, we’re deploying technologies that alleviate provider burnout, increase job satisfaction, reduce staffing costs, and facilitate more daily clinician collaboration.

Conversational AI and Voice Tech: Improving Provider-Patient Communication and Care

When former WillowTree designer Matt Kubota’s partner Ana developed Guillain-Barré Syndrome, the rare autoimmune disorder left Ana temporarily paralyzed and unable to speak. So WillowTree teams came together to rapidly ideate and launch our award-winning Vocable Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) app. It’s a free, conversational AI mobile platform allowing non-verbal users to communicate via subtle head movements and text-to-speech.

This vital tool does not provide value to users alone; rather, it has the power to unlock higher quality care and lower care costs for care teams as well. Specifically, improving patient-provider interaction maximizes care team efficiency: annual costs associated with adverse medical events (such as falls, drug reactions, etc.) resulting from poor patient-provider communication can exceed $29 billion.8

If a speech-impaired patient could more efficiently communicate to nurses — such as a penicillin allergy, bathroom assistance, or room temperature preferences — there are tremendous opportunities for quality improvement and efficiency gains. Vocable is a simple and elegant solution to help healthcare providers more accurately understand and deliver on patient needs, capture personal details, and communicate those details to the broader care team.

Conversational AI-enabled tech like Vocable is a clear, equitable answer for better outcomes, improved collaboration, and overall cost reduction.

Virtual Care: Enhancing Provider Experience to Drive Global Adoption and Efficacy

Telehealth democratizes access to quality care by alleviating geographical barriers, staffing shortages, stigmas associated with in-person care, and cost. In doing so, we often see high patient satisfaction in virtual care.9 That’s why a top global telemedicine and virtual health provider came to us for help analyzing how providers and patients engage with its telehealth platform. We supported the product team in re-envisioning and establishing a new performance measurement system for core scheduling and care delivery flows.

WillowTree’s analytics and optimization services implemented robust systems to measure the performance of critical moments in users’ journeys and understand how providers and patients engaged in the telehealth platform. From there, our marketing services teams incorporated these learnings into new online and offline branding materials to support the recruitment and expansion of highly specialized physicians into the platform.

Our work drove a 14% increase in provider participation in virtual care programs. WillowTree’s work streamlines telehealth for physicians and their patients: we ensure that every digital experience shared by patients and providers is practical and accessible.

Virtual Assistants and Automation: Simplifying Routine Tasks for Physicians at a Premier Staffing Company

WillowTree partnered with one of the largest healthcare staffing firms to create and launch a new provider experience for physicians.

In less than a year, we delivered a first-to-market, user-tested solution that simplifies and manages repetitive tasks like appointment scheduling, eligibility verification, and billing — particularly time-intensive for physicians and nurses as they seek prior authorizations for care.

Post-launch, our client saw 60% higher usage of the new app than the existing web portal. Monthly app visits were 30% higher than the web portal’s benchmark, and we surpassed our download goal by 280%. Today, our solution continues to deliver on its promise of simplifying and enhancing healthcare providers’ experiences.

Want to Learn More? Let’s Chat at ViVE.

The world's leading healthcare companies are making big bets on digital experiences and AI, from patient experience to claims management. This data-powered wave of healthcare transformation makes us excited to sponsor the upcoming ViVE 2024 event in Los Angeles, CA, from February 25 to 28.

Join me and my WillowTree colleagues as we continue the conversation at ViVE. Feel free to grab some time to connect with me directly or stop by Booth 1118.

Not Going to ViVE?

We’d still love to hear from you. Connect with WillowTree to explore the future of tech in health and medicine.


[1] Burnout in United States Healthcare Professionals: A Narrative Review

[2] AAMC Report Reinforces Mounting Physician Shortage

[3] Practice Transformation: Research

[4] Survey: Workforce Challenges Cited by CEOs as Top Issue Confronting Hospitals in 2022

[5] 2024 Healthcare Workforce Trends You Can’t Afford to Ignore

[6] Hospitals' Labor Costs Increased 258% Over the Last Three Years

[7] “Where You Feel Like a Family Instead of Co-workers”: a Mixed Methods Study on Care Teams and Burnout

[8] Changes in Telehealth Experienced by Advanced Practice RNs During COVID-19

[9] Improving Patient Safety and Patient-Provider Communication

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