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In a healthcare industry still burdened with 1960s technology, generative AI may offer a little relief — but companies are still working to overhaul a broken system that’s keeping doctors and nurses more focused on paperwork than patients.

By Katie Jennings and Rashi Shrivastava, Forbes Staff

Every week, Eli Gelfand, chief of general cardiology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, wastes a lot of time on letters he doesn’t want to write — all of them to insurers disputing his recommendations. A new drug for a heart failure patient. A CAT scan for a patient with chest pain. A new drug for a patient with stiff heart syndrome. “We’re talking about appeal letters for things that are life-saving,” says Gelfand, who is also an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School.

So when OpenAI’s ChatGPT began making headlines for generally coherent artificial intelligence-generated text, Gelfand saw an opportunity to save some time. He fed the bot some basic information about a diagnosis and the medications he’d prescribed (leaving out the patient’s name) and asked it to write an appeal letter with references to scientific papers.

ChatGPT gave him a viable letter — the first of many. And while the references may sometimes be wrong, Gelfand told Forbes the letters require “minimal editing.” Crucially, they have cut the time he spends writing them down to a minute on average. And they work.

Gelfand has used ChatGPT for some 30 appeal letters, most of which have been approved by insurers, he says. But he’s under no illusion that ChatGPT or the AI that powers it is going to save the U.S. healthcare system anytime soon. “It’s basically making my life a little easier and hopefully getting the patients the medications they need at a higher rate,” Gelfand says. “This is a workaround solution for a problem that shouldn’t really exist.”

That problem: The U.S. spends more money on healthcare administration than any other country. In 2019, around a quarter of the $3.8 trillion spent on healthcare went to administrative issues like the ones bemoaned by Gelfand. It’s estimated around $265 billion of that was “wasteful” — unnecessary expenditures necessitated by the antiquated technology that undergirds the U.S. healthcare system. Gelfand can use a chatbot to electronically generate an appeal letter. But he has to fax it to the insurer. And that encapsulates the challenge facing companies hoping to build time-saving AI back-office tools for a healthcare system stuck in the 1960s.

Cut The “Scut”

The fax machine isn’t going away anytime soon, says Nate Gross, cofounder and chief strategy officer of Doximity, a San Francisco-based social networking platform used by two million doctors and other healthcare professionals in the U.S. That’s why Doximity’s new workflow tool, DocsGPT, a chatbot that helps doctors write a wide range of letters and certificates, is connected to its online faxing tool.

“Our design thesis is to make it as easy as possible for doctors to interface with

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Anyone who has experience with the healthcare system in the United States (and plenty of people who don’t have experience with it) knows that going to the doctor can be expensive. Going to the dentist, in particular, is notoriously costly because it’s not typically covered under a regular health insurance plan. So after one TikToker, Delia O’Malley, was quoted over $3000 for a root canal in the United States, she came up with the brilliant idea of going to Turkey to get it done there instead. Below, you can hear Delia’s full story, and maybe it’ll inspire you to consider taking a holiday the next time you’re quoted with an exorbitant medical bill. And if you’re looking for another Bored Panda story about the American healthcare system after reading this piece, we’ve got another for you right here.

More info: TikTok

After this TikToker was quoted over $3000 for a root canal in the United States, she decided to book a trip to Turkey and get it done there instead

Delia’s entire trip, including her dental bills, came out to less than the root canal would have cost in the US

Image credits: asdeliadoes

You can hear Delia tell the full story here

@asdeliadoes My dentist wanted $3099 for a root canal so I booked a week in Turkey to get it done here! Came to less than $1200. So I get a root canal and a holiday now ???❤️ #turkey #lastminutetrip #manifestation #dental #kusidasi #graitude ♬ original sound – Delia O’Malley

While Delia’s trip was a creative solution for her medical needs, she’s not the only one who has had to think outside the box for treatment. In fact, “dental tourism” is a real phenomenon among people trying to avoid paying extremely high dental prices. According to Forbes, in 2020 approximately 290,000 Americans traveled abroad for dental and medical procedures. Mexico is one popular destination, due to proximity and the price of treatment. For example, root canals in Mexico cost 80% less than they do in the US. However, Americans aren’t the only ones seeking treatment abroad. Sometimes even Britons and Irish people take short trips to Eastern Europe or India for affordable procedures. Other common countries to visit for dental work include Thailand, Turkey, Costa Rica, the Philippines and Spain. 

Although medical tourism is gaining popularity, it can still be overwhelming to navigate alone. Knowing where to go and how to communicate with treatment providers when you don’t speak their language is daunting, but that’s where companies like Beyond Borders Dental come in. Beyond Borders Dental works specifically with Americans looking for affordable dental care in Mexico and provides them with the resources and support needed to find treatment. Their website says that patients typically save 50-75% on dental care, and in their cost breakdown for various treatments in Mexico, root canals are listed at only $250. “We’ve carefully selected the best dental offices in Mexico for our dental referral program,” their site states. “With Beyond

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