Nursing Homes Can Apply AI to Everyday Operations – But First, Involve the Nurses

As nursing homes take up artificial intelligence (AI) and other technology advances as part of operations, it’s crucial to not only involve nurses in its implementation, but to bring to their attention AI’s limitations.

Besides the fact that minimizing nurse involvement in such decisions can give rise to general distrust among clinical staff as well as resistance from nurse associations and workers’ unions, experts say it makes practical sense to get nurses on board with AI.

About a third of what doctors and nurses do in nursing homes can be done with AI, said Tom Lawry, managing director of Second Century Tech. This includes a lot of the repetitive activities often tied to administrative duties. In terms of a value proposition for operators and staff then, this means giving a third of their time back, allowing nurses to upskill and work at the top of their license, he said.


“Use of AI to change processes eventually involves your nurses, your financial department … they’re probably the smartest people to know what your problems are and what to do better,” said Lawry.

Lawry often sees larger operators involve their leadership, AI educators and investors, but thousands of staff, who provide the day-to-day services are left wondering what AI implementation really means for their daily tasks. Nursing home organizations need to create a more widespread awareness of AI’s uses, he said.

“Everyone needs to be educated in AI [implementation], not just leadership but your entire workforce,” he said. That way, nurses are aware of how it could help alleviate stress in the long run.


Lawry spoke about the intersection of AI and nursing homes at this year’s LTC100 conference.

Fallout of not including nurses in AI decisions

These views come as nurse organizations and unions are generally opposed to AI in health care – providers are facing the challenge of convincing staff of what AI can do to help with overall operations.

Most recently, the nation’s largest nurses union National Nurses United held protests at Kaiser Permanente in California, demanding that AI tools should be proven safe and equitable before deployment, according to reports from multiple outlets, including Fierce Healthcare.

In the nursing home industry, there was concern over Medicare Advantage plans’ use of AI leading to denials of claims – so much so that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) placed limits on its use among plans.

‘This tells me that something critical is not happening. We’re not bringing nurses along for the conversation. If I were in your shoes, whether I’m using AI today or I’m thinking about using AI, I’m going to be looking at how I start bringing my key workforce along,” said Lawry.

It’s the best way to determine what specific issues AI can help with, by using the unique mix of wisdom, experience and problem solving that only nurses can provide, he said.

Bring staff in on the conversation from the beginning and not have decisions made with just “leaders of the pod” and those coming from the tech world, he said.

In terms of a business strategy that uses AI, Lawry said it can be first applied to customer service and marketing, and creating a personalized approach for prospective residents based on community need and generational preferences.

“There was a conversation around positioning and [public perception]. I don’t understand why that is,” said Lawry. “When I look at all of the work you’re doing, I truly believe you’re on the frontline of a new frontier, and we’ve got to figure this out. If we don’t figure this out, I believe it’s going to cascade down to every other aspect of health and medicine today.”

The value proposition of AI

In order to create value around AI, operators and staff need to know what tasks can improve with use of AI and what might be better left to a person, Lawry said.

Some of the more obvious strengths of AI include information processing, repetitive activity, and automation, he said, along with variance analysis, pattern recognition and image analysis.

Aspects of the nursing home job best left to humans: compassion, empathy, imagination, abstract thinking, judgment, creativity and problem solving.

The idea behind creating value around AI, he said, is allowing it to do what it’s good at so staff have more time to do work at the bedside.

“You start to dive in, looking at how to apply AI, bringing it behind your people, and making changes in processes,” said Lawry.

Data shows that a third of a nurse’s or doctor’s time is spent on repetitive, more administrative tasks that can be done with AI. Therein lies the value proposition – giving nurses a third of their time back.

“What if I could give you a third of your time back? What would you do differently? More time with patients? More time maybe doing research, or God forbid, as a physician actually getting home for dinner on time? That’s the value proposition that it offers and that’s the sort of thing you should be thinking about,” said Lawry.

That leads to a possible competitive advantage for operators in terms of retaining and hiring staff, he said.

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