Physicians Transform Medical Generative AI into a Thriving Industry

The newest breakthrough in medical technology promises to revive an ancient healthcare practice: direct conversations between doctors and patients.

At the HIMSS conference in Orlando, Florida, where over 30,000 health and tech professionals gathered, ambient clinical documentation took center stage on the exhibition floor.

This innovative technology enables doctors to ethically record their patient interactions. Using artificial intelligence, these conversations are swiftly transformed into clinical notes and summaries.

Companies such as Microsoft’s Nuance Communications, Abridge, and Suki have crafted solutions with these capabilities. They argue that this technology will alleviate doctors’ administrative burdens and emphasize meaningful patient connections.

Dr. Shiv Rao, founder and CEO of Abridge, explained to CNBC at HIMSS, “After I see a patient, I have to write notes, I have to place orders, I have to think about the patient summary.”

“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 tasks pose a significant challenge for clinicians throughout the U.S. healthcare system. A survey conducted by Athenahealth in February revealed that over 90% of physicians regularly experience burnout, largely due to the paperwork they must complete.

Physicians Transform Medical Generative AI into a Thriving Industry
Abridge’s ambient clinical documentation technology saves doctors time and automates administrative tasks. (Credits: Sniper Solutions)

According to the survey, more than 60% of doctors feel overwhelmed by administrative demands, often working an additional 15 hours per week outside of their regular schedule. This off-duty work has been dubbed “pajama time” within the industry.

Since administrative duties primarily involve bureaucratic tasks that do not directly impact medical decisions or patient care, health systems have increasingly turned to generative AI for solutions. Consequently, ambient clinical documentation solutions are currently experiencing a surge in popularity.

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

Microsoft’s Nuance unveiled its ambient clinical documentation tool, Dragon Ambient eXperience (DAX) Express, in a preview capacity last March. By September, the solution, now known as DAX Copilot, was widely available. Harper reported that over 200 organizations are currently utilizing the technology.

Microsoft’s acquisition of Nuance for approximately $16 billion in 2021 further solidifies its commitment to advancing healthcare technology. Their exhibition booth, spanning two stories, was frequently crowded with conference attendees.

Harper stated that the technology saves doctors several minutes per encounter, with precise time savings varying depending on medical specialty.

He noted that his team receives nearly daily feedback from doctors, who attest that the service has not only improved their self-care but also saved their marriages.

Physicians Transform Medical Generative AI into a Thriving Industry
Nuance’s DAX Copilot integrated with Epic EHR, enhancing workflow efficiency and reducing clerical burdens. (Credits: Nuance)

During HIMSS, Stanford Health Care revealed its decision to implement DAX Copilot throughout its entire organization.

Gary Fritz, chief of applications at Stanford Health Care, shared that they initially piloted the tool within exam rooms. In a recent survey of physicians regarding their experience with DAX Copilot, an overwhelming 96% reported finding it user-friendly.

In an interview with CNBC, Fritz expressed his astonishment, stating, “I don’t know that I’ve ever seen that big a number. It is a big deal.”

Dr. Christopher Sharp, chief medical information officer at Stanford Health Care and a participant in the DAX Copilot testing, described the tool as “remarkably seamless” in operation.

While acknowledging its immediacy and reliability, Sharp noted room for enhancement in capturing a patient’s tone accurately.

Sharp observed that the tool has streamlined his documentation process, leading to a shift in how he utilizes his time. Rather than composing notes from scratch, he finds himself frequently reading and editing notes generated by the tool.

Looking ahead, Sharp expressed a desire for more personalized features within DAX Copilot, tailored to individual preferences and medical specialties. Nonetheless, he emphasized the immediate recognition of the tool’s value upon its introduction.

“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 remarked in the CNBC interview.

Fritz indicated that it is still early in the product’s life cycle, and Stanford Health Care is refining its deployment strategy. He anticipates a phased rollout of DAX Copilot, likely targeting specific medical specialties initially.

In January, Nuance made a significant announcement regarding the general availability of DAX Copilot within Epic Systems’ electronic health record (EHR) platform. Epic stands as the largest vendor in the U.S. hospital market share, according to a report from KLAS Research in May.

The integration of DAX Copilot directly into doctors’ EHR workflow eliminates the need for app switching, thereby saving time and further reducing clerical burdens, as emphasized by Harper.

Seth Hain, senior vice president of R&D at Epic, informed CNBC that since the HIMSS conference last year, over 150,000 notes have been drafted into Epic’s software by ambient technologies. This technology is rapidly expanding, with more notes drafted in 2024 than in the previous year.

Hain noted, “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.”

Another player in this arena is Abridge, which integrates its ambient clinical documentation technology directly into Epic. While Abridge didn’t disclose the exact number of health organizations using its technology, it announced at HIMSS that UCI Health in California is implementing its solution system-wide.

Abridge’s CEO, Rao, expressed his awe at the historic pace of the adoption of ambient clinical documentation in the healthcare industry. The company recently closed significant funding rounds, indicating growing interest and support for its mission to alleviate physician burnout.

Physicians Transform Medical Generative AI into a Thriving Industry
Suki’s digital assistant streamlines physician documentation, reducing time spent on paperwork by 72%. (Credits: Suki)

Rao highlighted Abridge’s impact, stating that it saves some doctors up to three hours a day and automates over 92% of the clerical work it targets. The technology is operational across 55 specialties and 14 languages.

Abridge maintains a Slack channel titled “love stories,” where the team shares positive feedback received about their technology. Rao finds such testimonials inspiring for the entire company.

Meanwhile, Suki CEO Punit Soni characterized the ambient clinical documentation market as “sizzling,” anticipating continued rapid growth in the coming years. Despite the hype, he believes the industry will eventually stabilize.

Suki, founded over six years ago, has gained traction in various specialties across 250 health organizations nationwide. Soni reported that six large health systems recently adopted Suki.

Suki’s technology boasts an average reduction of 72% in physician documentation time. The company secured a $55 million funding round in 2021 and anticipates another round later in the year.

Looking forward, Soni revealed Suki’s focus on deploying technology at scale and exploring additional applications, such as assisting nurses. Expansion into the Spanish language is imminent, with plans to support other major languages in the future.

“There is so much that has to happen,” Soni remarked, envisioning significant transformations in healthcare technology over the next decade.

Michael Manua
Michael Manua
Michael, a seasoned market news expert with 29 years of experience, offers unparalleled insights into financial markets. At 61, he has a track record of providing accurate, impactful analyses, making him a trusted voice in financial journalism.
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