The surrounding clinical documentation steals the show

HIMSS Orlando, FL 2024 Participants

Courtesy of HIMSS

The hottest new technology for doctors promises to bring back an age-old practice in healthcare: face-to-face conversations with patients.

As more than 30,000 healthcare and technology professionals gathered among the palm trees at the HIMSS conference in Orlando, Florida, this week, the clinical documentation environment was the theme of the show.

This technology allows doctors to mutually record their visits with patients. Conversations are automatically transformed into clinical notes and summaries using artificial intelligence. Companies such as Microsoft’s Nuance Communications, Abridge and Suki have developed solutions with these capabilities that they claim will help reduce the administrative burden on physicians and prioritize meaningful patient connections.

“Once I see a patient, I have to write notes, I have to place orders, I have to think about the patient’s summary,” Dr. Shiv Rao, founder and CEO of Abridge, told CNBC at 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 press start, I have a conversation, then I press stop, I can turn my chair and then seconds, the note is there.”

Administrative burden is a major concern for clinicians in the US health care system. A survey published by Athenahealth in February found that more than 90 percent of doctors report feeling burned out on a “regular basis,” largely because of the paperwork they’re expected to fill out.

More than 60 percent of doctors say they feel overwhelmed by clerical demands and work an average of 15 hours a week outside of their regular hours to keep up, the survey said. Many in the industry refer to this work at home as “pajama time.”

Because administrative work is mostly bureaucratic and does not directly influence doctors’ decisions about diagnoses or patient care, it served as one of the first areas where health systems began to seriously explore the applications of generative AI. As a result, environmental clinical documentation solutions are having a real moment in the sun.

“There’s no better place,” Kenneth Harper, general manager of DAX Copilot at Microsoft, said in an interview with CNBC.

Microsoft’s Nuance announced its Dragon Ambient eXperience (DAX) Express ambient clinical documentation tool in a preview capacity last March. By September, the solution, now called DAX Copilot, was ready generally available. Harper said there are now more than 200 organizations using the technology.

Microsoft acquired Nuance for about $16 billion in 2021. The company had a two-story exhibit booth in the exhibit hall that was often packed with visitors

Harper said the technology saves doctors several minutes per appointment, though the exact numbers vary by specialty. He said his team receives feedback about the service almost daily from doctors who say it has helped them take better care of themselves — and even saved their marriages.

Harper recounted a conversation with a physician who was considering retirement after more than three decades in practice. He said the doctor felt exhausted from years of stress but was inspired to keep working after being introduced to DAX Copilot.

“He said, ‘I literally think I’m going to coach another 10 years because I actually enjoy what I’m doing,'” Harper said. “This is just a personal anecdote about the kind of impact this has on our care teams.”

At HIMSS, Stanford Health Care announced he is implementing DAX Copilot throughout his enterprise.

Gary Fritz, head of applications at Stanford Health Care, said the organization initially began testing the tool in its exam rooms. He said Stanford recently surveyed physicians about using DAX Copilot, and 96 percent found it easy to use.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a number this big,” Fritz said in an interview with CNBC. “It’s a big deal.”

Dr. Christopher Sharp, chief medical information officer at Stanford Health Care and one of the doctors who tested DAX Copilot, said it was “remarkably seamless” to use. He said the instrument’s immediacy and reliability are accurate and strong, but could improve in capturing the patient’s tone.

Sharp said he believes the tool saves him time documenting and has changed the way he spends that time. He said he often reads and edits notes rather than composing them, for example, so it’s not as if the work has completely disappeared.

In the near future, Sharp said he would like to see more customization options within DAX Copilot, both on an individual and ad hoc level. However, he said it was easy to see its value from the start.

“The moment that first document comes back to you and you see your own words and the patient’s words reflected directly back at you in a usable way, I’d say from that point on you’re hooked,” Sharpe told CNBC in an interview .

Fritz said it’s still early in the product’s lifecycle, and Stanford Health Care is still working out exactly what the rollout will look like. He said DAX Copilot would likely appear in specialty-specific tranches.

HIMSS Orlando, FL 2024 Participants

Courtesy of HIMSS

In January, Nuance announced the general availability of DAX Copilot at Epic Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems. Most doctors create and manage patient medical records using an EHR, and Epic is one on the largest supplier by U.S. hospital market share, according to a May report KLAS Research.

Integrating a tool like DAX Copilot directly into physicians’ EHR workflow means they won’t have to switch applications to access it, which helps save time and further reduce their clerical burden, Harper said. .

Seth Hein, senior vice president of R&D at Epic, told CNBC that more than 150,000 notes have been compiled in the company’s software through surrounding technologies since the HIMSS conference last year. And the technology scales quickly. Hein said more notes have already been drafted in 2024 than in 2023.

“You’re seeing health systems that have worked through a deliberate process of getting their end users on board with this type of technology are now starting to rapidly deploy it,” he said.

A company called Abridge is also integrating its clinical environmental documentation technology directly into Epic. Abridge declined to share the exact number of healthcare organizations using its technology. He announced at HIMSS that California-based UCI Health is rolling out the company’s solution system-wide.

Rao, Abridge’s CEO, said the speed with which the healthcare industry has embraced clinical documentation surrounds feels “historic.”

Abridge announced a 30 million dollars A Series B funding round in October led by Spark Capital, and four months later the company closed a $150 million Series C round, according to February edition. Rao said tailwinds like physician burnout have become a “tornado” for Abridge, and he will use the funds to continue investing in the science behind the technology and explore where it can go next.

The company saves some doctors up to three hours a day, Rao said, and automates more than 92 percent of the clerical work it focuses on. Abridge’s technology works in 55 specialties and 14 languages, he added.

Abridge has a Slack channel called “love stories” that was viewed by CNBC where the team will share the positive feedback they receive about their technology. One message this week was from a doctor who said Abridge helped them eliminate their least favorite part of their job and saved them about an hour and a half each day.

“This is the type of feedback that absolutely inspires everyone in the company,” Rao said.

Suki’s chief executive, Punit Soni, said the market for clinical environmental documentation was “red hot”. He expects the rapid growth to continue for the next few years, although, as with all hype cycles, he said he thinks the dust will settle.

Soni founded Suki more than six years ago after envisioning a need for a digital assistant to help doctors manage clinical records. Soni said Suki is now used by more than 30 specialties in about 250 healthcare organizations nationwide. Six “major health systems” have worked with Suki in the past two weeks, he added.

“For four to five years I sat, basically with the shop open, hoping someone would come along. “Now the whole mall is here and there’s a line out the door of people wanting to set up,” Soni told CNBC at HIMSS. “It’s very, very exciting to be here.”

to Suki website says its technology can reduce the time a doctor spends on paperwork by an average of 72%. The company raised a 55 million dollars funding round in 2021 led by March Capital. There will probably be another round in the second half of the year, Sonny said.

Soni said Suki is focused on deploying its technology at scale and exploring additional applications, such as how environmental documentation can be used to assist nurses. He said Spanish is coming soon to Suki and customers should expect most major languages ​​to follow.

“There’s so much that needs to happen,” he said. “In the next decade, all healthcare technology will look completely different.”

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