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Startup bets on AI voice assistant to prevent physician burnout - MedCity News

Startup bets on AI voice assistant to prevent physician burnout - MedCity News
Technology
How do you keep physicians from being overwhelmed by a mountain of paperwork? Give them a voice assistant, similar to Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri. That’s the thinking behind Suki, a Redwood City-based startup that recently struck a partnership with Mount Sinai Health System spinoff Rx.Health.

Rx.Health curates digital tools for doctors, allowing them to prescribe digital therapeutics and care plans from electronic health record systems. Up to this point, the company has focused on solutions that improve patient health, but with Suki, it started introducing tools to address physician burnout.

Rx.Health had been looking to put together a suite of tools for physician burnout, such as a mindfulness app or happiness survey, before it came across Suki, said Dr. Ashish Atreja, chief strategy officer for Rx.Health and chief innovation officer for Mount Sinai’s Icahn School of Medicine.

“We saw them as part of the solution. We can do a lot of activities, but some of the root causes, if we don’t take away the physician burden for documentation, we’re scratching the surface,” Atreja said. “We thought this needs to be a priority.”

Physicians spend up to 50 percent of their time in EHRs, making roughly 10,000 clicks within 10 hours, Atreja said. Could a voice assistant make it easier to navigate these clunky systems?

Suki CEO Punit Soni thinks so. A technologist by background, he spent eight years at Google as a lead project manager and served as ecommerce giant Flipkart’s chief product officer before co-founding Suki in 2016.

The company has already stuck two big contracts with Ascension Health and Unified Physician Management. It also is working with roughly 80 independent practices across the U.S., Soni said, and has raised $20 million in funding to date.

Physicians’ notes appear in the Suki app.

The company’s software can reduce the amount of time doctors spend on documentation by 50 to 70 percent, he said. It’s meant to be intuitive, as if a physician was talking to a colleague about a patient. Suki then fills out the appropriate forms in the EHR system.

This might sound like a daunting task, but Soni said the unique vocabulary used in medicine makes speech recognition more effective.

“There are not too many words in (medical) specialties compared to consumer software, when you’re asking Alexa to play a song for you,” he said.

The unique words used in medicine also make it easier to avoid speech recognition mistakes. For example, it might be easy to misread “ball” for “tall.” With words like “hyperchloremia,” not so much.

“What’s more interesting is mapping the workflow of a doctor,” he said.

Soni’s next goal is to scale up Suki’s machine learning and speech teams. The company currently has 50 employees. In the longer term, he wants the company to have a presence across five of the six largest health systems in the U.S.

Rx.Health will also continue to build out its toolkit for physician burnout, which it will expand through more partnerships with health systems and payers next year.
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