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HomeAIDoctors are turning medical generative AI into a booming business

Doctors are turning medical generative AI into a booming business

The hottest new technology for doctors promises to revive an age-old health-care practice: face-to-face interactions with patients.

This week, more than 30,000 health and technology experts met beneath the palm trees at the HIMSS conference in Orlando, Florida, where ambient clinical documentation was the talk of the exhibition floor.

This technology allows clinicians to record patient visits in a consented manner. The interactions are automatically converted into clinical notes and summaries using artificial intelligence. Companies such as Microsoft’s Nuance Communications, Abridge, and Suki have created solutions with these features, which they claim will help doctors minimize administrative duties and prioritize meaningful connections with patients.

“After I see a patient, I have to write notes, place orders, and think about the patient summary,” Dr. Shiv Rao, creator and CEO of Abridge, told CNBC during HIMSS. “So what our technology does is it allows me to focus on the person in front of me — the most important person, the patient — because when I hit start, have a conversation, then hit stop, I can swivel my chair and within seconds, the note’s there.”

Administrative duties are a serious issue for clinicians throughout the U.S. healthcare system. According to an Athenahealth poll published in February, more than 90% of physicians report feeling burned out on a “regular basis,” owing primarily to the amount of paperwork they must complete Expected to finish.

According to the report, more than 60% of doctors are overburdened by secretarial responsibilities and work an average of 15 hours each week outside of their regular hours to stay current. Many in the industry refer to at-home work as “pajama time.”

Administrative labor is primarily bureaucratic and has no direct influence on doctors’ diagnosis or patient care decisions, therefore it has been one of the first areas where health organizations have actively begun to investigate generative AI applications. As a result, ambient clinical documentation solutions are becoming increasingly popular.

“There isn’t a better place to be,” Kenneth Harper, general manager of Microsoft’s DAX Copilot, told CNBC in an interview.

Last March, Microsoft’s Nuance revealed a preview of their ambient clinical documentation product, Dragon Ambient eXperience (DAX) Express. By September, the solution, now known as DAX Copilot, was widely available. According to Harper, the technology is now being used by over 200 organizations.

In 2021, Microsoft acquired Nuance for approximately $16 billion. The company had a two-story exhibition booth in the exhibit hall, which was frequently packed with guests.

Harper claims that the technology saves doctors several minutes per encounter, while the exact amounts vary depending on the specialty. He said his team receives feedback on the service almost daily from doctors who say it has helped them take better care of themselves and even saved their marriages.

Harper described a chat he had with a physician who was thinking about retiring after more than 30 years of practice. He stated that the doctor was exhausted from years of stress, but he was motivated to continue working after being introduced to DAX Copilot.

“He said, ‘I literally think I’m going to practice for another 10 years because I actually enjoy what I do,'” Harper was quoted as saying. “That’s just a personal anecdote of the type of impact this is having on our care teams.”

Stanford Health Care revealed at HIMSS that it will implement DAX Copilot across the whole company.

Gary Fritz, chief of applications at Stanford Health Care, explained that the business began by testing the technology in its exam rooms. He stated that Stanford recently questioned physicians about their usage of DAX Copilot, and 96% considered it straightforward to use.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen that big a number,” Fritz told CNBC in an interview. “It is a big deal.”

Dr. Christopher Sharp, Stanford Health Care’s chief medical information officer and one of the clinicians who evaluated DAX Copilot, described it as “remarkably seamless” to use. He stated that the tool’s immediacy and reliability are accurate and robust, but its ability to capture a patient’s tone might be improved.

Sharp believes the technology saves him much time and has transformed how he spends it. He stated that he frequently reads and edits notes rather than making them, so the task has not disappeared totally.

Sharp expressed an interest in seeing greater customisation features inside DAX Copilot in the near future, both at the individual and specialist levels. Nonetheless, he stated that the worth was obvious from the outset.

“The moment that that first document returns to you, and you see your own words and the patient’s own words being reflected directly back to you in a usable fashion, I would say that from that moment, you’re hooked,” Sharp said in a recent interview with CNBC.

Fritz stated that the product is still in its early stages of development, and Stanford Health Care is still determining how it will be deployed. He stated that DAX Copilot will most likely be launched in specialty-specific tranches.

Nuance said in January that DAX Copilot was now generally available within Epic Systems’ electronic health record (EHR). Most clinicians use EHRs to create and manage patient medical records, and Epic is the leading vendor by hospital market share in the United States, according to a KLAS Research report published in May.

Integrating a tool like DAX Copilot directly into doctors’ EHR workflow eliminates the need to switch apps, saving time and significantly reducing their clerical burden, according to Harper.

Seth Hain, Epic’s senior vice president of R&D, told CNBC that ambient technologies had drafted over 150,000 notes into the company’s software since the HIMSS conference last year. And technology is advancing rapidly. Hain stated that more notes had already been drafted in 2024 than in 2023.

“You’re seeing health systems who have worked through an intentional process of acclimating their end users to this type of technology, now beginning to rapidly roll that out,” he went on to say.

Abridge also integrates their ambient clinical documentation technology straight into Epic. Abridge declined to disclose the actual number of health groups that use their technology. It stated at HIMSS that California-based UCI Health is implementing the company’s solution throughout the system.

Rao, CEO of Abridge, described the rate at which the health-care industry has adopted ambient clinical documentation as “historic.”

Abridge announced a $30 million Series B investment round in October, headed by Spark Capital, and four months later concluded a $150 million Series C round, according to a February press release. Rao stated that tail winds such as physician burnout have become a “tornado” for Abridge, and that the funds will be used to continue investing in the science underpinning the technology and exploring where it may go next.

According to Rao, the company saves some doctors up to three hours each day by automating more than 92% of the administrative work it focuses on. Abridge’s technology is available in 55 specializations and 14 languages, he added.

Abridge has a Slack channel dubbed “love stories,” which was accessed by CNBC, where the staff shares favorable feedback about their technology. One comment from this week came from a doctor who stated Abridge helped them eliminate their least favorite portion of their job and saved them around an hour and a half per day.

“That’s the type of feedback that absolutely inspires everybody in the company,” Rao said in a statement.

Suki CEO Punit Soni described the ambient clinical documentation industry as “sizzling.” He expects rapid development to continue over the next few years, but, as with all hype cycles, he believes the dust will settle.

Soni founded Suki over six years ago, assuming that doctors will require a digital assistant to help them organize clinical documentation. According to Soni, Suki is now used by more than 30 specialties in around 250 health organizations across the nation. Six “large health systems” have gone live with Suki in the last two weeks, he said.

“For four to five years, I’ve sat around with the shop open, hoping someone will show up. “The entire mall has arrived, and there is a line outside the door of people wanting to deploy,” Soni told CNBC at HIMSS. “It’s very, very exciting to be here.”

According to Suki’s website, its technology can save a physician’s documentation time by 72% on average. In 2021, the company raised $55 million in investment, led by March Capital. Soni expects another round in the later half of the year.

Soni stated that Suki is focused on scaling up its technology and researching other applications, such as how ambient documentation could help nurses. He stated that Suki will soon offer Spanish, and that most major languages will follow.

“There is so much that has to happen,” he told me. “In the next decade, all of health-care tech is going to look completely different.”



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