‘Suki, this patient needs a follow up’: AI start-up backed by Salesforce’s CEO Marc Benioff is trying to build an Alexa for doctors in US
The hope is to alleviate some of the burnout doctors feel and free up more time to be with patients
By Lydia Ramsey
Artificial intelligence startup Suki wants to bring an Alexa-like assistant into the doctor’s office.
The company, which officially launched on Tuesday, has raised US$20 million to date from investors including Venrock, First Round, Social Capital, and Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff.
Suki’s goal is to help eliminate doctor burnout. More than half of doctors in the US experience burnout, a rate that’s twice as high as the average American worker. That can have a lot to do with the number of patients and the amount of paperwork that needs to be recorded about each patient. To alleviate that, practices will often hire medical scribes to record that information.
Suki wants to replace that service with an AI-powered voice assistant: In the same way you can tell Amazon’s Alexa to play a Spotify playlist or set a timer while cooking, the team at Suki aims to make a voice assistant that for doctors.
The virtual assistant, called Suki, wakes up at the sound of its name through a phone or desktop application. That way, a doctor can say “Suki, this patient needs a follow up appointment,” and the tool can help coordinate that, CEO Punit Soni, a former Google and Motorola executive, told Business Insider.
The technology is in pilot programmes California and Georgia, including internal medicine, orthopedics, and plastic surgery practices.
Here’s what it looks like:
For now, Suki can be used to record certain actions, but ideally Soni hopes that it can start to be proactive as well. If doctors mention a patient has a particular condition: Suki can go and figure out what prescription might be appropriate.
The hope, too is that Suki would also be able to work with simple statements given by doctors.
Voice assistants have been speculated as having good applications for medical help. In January, analysts at Cowen wrote that Amazon would have a good shot of getting into healthcare by using its voice assistant Alexa, for example to help book a telemedicine appointment.
Soni said the plan is to use the additional funding to expand beyond its programmes with the healthcare providers in California and Georgia, as well as hire more people to build out the technology.
- Airline pilot reveals the meanings of 23 code words
- Jeff Bezos says to stop aiming for work-life ‘balance’
- Healthcare experts are sceptical about Amazon and JPMorgan’s new venture