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Scouting Report-Suki.AI:Helping Reduce Burnout with Clinical Voice Assistants

The Driver:

Suki.AI is a digital voice-based clinical assistant that uses AI technology to help doctors and healthcare workers with administrative tasks like generating accurate notes. Recently, it raised $55M from March Capital, Philips Ventures, Venrock, Flare Capital, Breyer Capital and inHealth Ventures. Some of the funders are leading figures in technology, healthcare and finance, including the Gaingels Group, Pankaj Patel (ex-chief development officer of Cisco), Andrew Deutsch, M.D., (CEO of RIMA Radiology) and Russell Farscht (former managing director of The Carlyle Group). The San Francisco-based company plans to use its funding to expand its user base through partnerships with health systems and medical groups while increasing employee growth and development. Suki will also add new features that streamline documentation, coding and other administrative tasks for physicians.

Key Takeaways:

  • According to Research and Markets’ projection, the global market for healthcare virtual assistants will grow from $1.1 billion in 2021 to $6 billion by 2026.

  • A 2017 Annals of Family Medicine study found that doctors spend almost two hours on tasks related to EHRs for every hour spent on direct patient care.

  • According to a 2019 Medscape survey, 60% of healthcare providers felt that “too many bureaucratic tasks” cause burnout.

  • Suki has lowered physicians’ average time per note by 76%.

The Story:

CEO and founder of Suki, Punit Singh, a former product manager at Google and ex-CPO at Flip-kart, is not a stranger to creating new products using technology. He got the inspiration for Suki from his experience as a project manager for Google in India, where he helped launch the Google News Archive project. “My stint in India taught me the value of entrepreneurship. One is I wanted to learn and grow from a different perspective and the journey is very different from when you build things from scratch, with nothing except an idea, and build it from there. I also wanted to leverage some of the advantages I had, and more importantly, I wanted to build something that had clear value to society,” he adds.

While shadowing doctors and physicians, Singh noticed doctors did not have any technology that reduced their administrative workload, which eventually led to physician burnout. “The doctors are overworked and there are few doctors for a large number of patients. There is no technology, and for every one hour of clinical work they are doing two hours of administrative work,” says Singh. Suki’s app addresses this gap by using natural language processing to transcribe notes. Doctors create clinical notes using the SOAP (subjective, objective, assessment, and plan) method. “Subjective” refers to what the doctor hears from the patient, while “objective” is what they observe. Assessment is what they assess and Plan refers to the next steps.

First, Suki writes a clinical note which the doctor can access using a command. Following which, the doctor tells Suki to create a note for a patient. The Suki.Al app then creates the note by using information from the patients’ electronic medical record to populate the note. Apart from note-taking, the app equally allows doctors to insert patients’ notes,

which are collated in the overall EMR.

By generating detailed clinical documentation, Suki’s technology has reduced physicians’ average time per note by 76% and decreased claim denial rates by about 19% according to the company. Detailed clinical documentation is important for health systems, medical groups’ revenue and also supports hierarchical condition category (HCC) coding integrity required for reimbursement in payment models. While, initially, the app worked as a basic note-taking platform, it now provides other services, including writing diagnostic information, problem-based charting and adding coding information. Doctors can subscribe to the $200 pay-per-month plan on either Windows, iOS, or Android apps and can use the app either on the phone or desktop computer. Currently, Suki, which follows the SaaS (software as a service) model, is used in about 85 healthcare sites in the U.S and also works with EHR companies such as Epic, Cerner, and Athenahealth.

The Differentiators:

While Suki is not a pioneer in making voice-activated devices that take notes for doctors. Companies like Saykara, Robin Healthcare and Vocera have similar technology. However, Suki is different because it does not have any physical hardware. “We are the only pure software company in this space,” Singh says. That allows it to keep price points low. A human medical scribe can cost between $60,000 and $80,000 per year, while Suki costs an average of $200 each month. This strategy is unique." The software-only design makes transcribing more seamless for doctors because it eliminates the need for setting up a device and also accommodates their need to move around a facility. It is equally cost-effective as healthcare facilities can save money they would otherwise spend on hiring medical scribes which can be quite expensive.

The Big Picture:

As physicians rise through professional ranks, their workloads follow suit, leading to burnout. The increased workload prevents doctors from spending more time engaging and communicating with patients could influence doctor-patient relationships adversely. A healthy patient-doctor relationship positively affects patients' outcomes. Suki aims to help doctors focus on and engage more with their patients by reducing the time spent on note-taking and other tedious and repetitive tasks. Innovations like Suki that help reduce physician burnout are significant and needed considering the number of physicians that are leaving or thinking of leaving medical practice because of the high administrative burden as well as added stress and trauma experienced during the pandemic. Even without the impact on burnout due to COVID, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the U.S. is projected to have a massive shortage of physicians in primary and specialty care by 2034. Although critics have voiced privacy concerns about Suki’s public partnerships with Google Cloud and the Ascension health around Suki software’s ability to listen in on patients’ private non-clinical conversations, the company contends this is not an issue. CEO Singh explains that the software doesn’t passively listen like Alexa, and only begins transcribing notes when the doctor asks for it to do that. He also claims that the software is fully HIPAA-compliant, though engineers at the company do use “insights from the users to train Suki.” AI voice assistance like Suki could help doctors channel countless hours that would have been spent on administrative work focusing on the work they love, caring for the patient. This will help ensure patients receive the quality time and service they deserve.


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