Health Tech Startup Suki Is Using Artificial Intelligence To Make Patient Records More Accessible To Every Doctor

On its website, healthcare tech startup Suki AI touts its Suki Speech Platform as “the most intelligent and responsive voice platform in healthcare.” The company builds software intended to assist doctors in more easily and efficiently complete patient documentation in patients’ electronic health records, or EHR. The idea is simple: by making charting faster and more accessible—this is accessibility too, especially for doctors with certain conditions of their own—the more physicians can shift their energy from the bureaucratic aspect of medicine to the actual practice of the profession. After all, doctors spend a king’s ransom on medical school to help people, not push pencils on their behalf.

In a press release issued this week, the Bay Area-based company announced a partnership with EHR maker Epic that entails deep integration of Suki’s AI-powered voice assistant tech with Epic’s records tech. Suki notes its eponymous Suki Assistant “helps clinicians complete time-consuming administrative tasks by voice and recently announced the ability to generate clinical notes from ambiently listening to a patient-clinician conversation; the integration enables notes to automatically be sent back to Epic, updating the relevant sections.”

“Ambient documentation holds great promise for reducing administrative burden and clinician burnout, and we are delighted to work with Epic to deliver a sophisticated, easy-to-use solution to its client base,” said Suki CEO Punit Soni in a prepared statement. “Suki Assistant represents the future of AI-powered voice assistants, and we are thrilled that it is integrated with Epic through its ambient APIs.”

In an interview with me conducted over email ahead of the announcement, Soni explained Suki’s mission is to “make healthcare tech invisible and assistive so that clinicians can focus on patient care.” The conduit through which Soni and team accomplishes their mission is their core product in the Suki Assistant. According to Soni, the company’s origin story began when he spotted a big hole in the health tech market. Clinician burnout, he said, continues to be a major problem in the industry as society reconciles with a pandemic-addled world. To that point, Soni pointed to a statistic gleaned from a recent study that found 88% of doctors don’t recommend their profession to their children. Soni feels the sobering reality is indicative of societal and financial problems. “I believe that when utilized properly, AI and voice technologies can transform healthcare and help relieve administrative burdens,” he said. “Suki has spent years investing in our technology to develop a suite of solutions that reduce burnout, improve the quality of care, and increase [the return on investment] for healthcare systems.”

When asked how the Suki Assistant works at a technical level, Soni told me it’s “the only product on the market that integrates with commonly used EHRs like Epic to create a seamless workflow for physicians.” He went on to tell me the company has used generative AI and large language models in training the Suki software; one of the team’s overarching goals was to build an assistant that could (reasonably) understand natural language. The team didn’t want people to have to memorize some rote syntax, akin to interacting with a pseudo-sentient command line. Clinicians can ask queries like “Who’s my next patient?” or ”Suki, what’s my schedule?” Moreover, users can dictate notes to the Assistant and ask it to show a list of a patient’s allergies. “Our goal is to make Suki as intuitive and easy to use as possible and we use the latest technologies in voice and AI to do so,” Soni said. “Using Suki should be as easy as picking up a phone, opening the app, and speaking naturally to it. There’s a lot of tech under the hood to enable that experience.”

The dots between AI and healthcare and accessibility are easy to connect. For one thing, as I alluded in the lede, it’s certainly plausible for a doctor to have a physical condition—carpal tunnel, for instance—that make doing administrative work like updating charts not merely a matter of drudgery, but of disability as well. Maybe using a pen or pencil even a few minutes causes the carpal tunnel to flare up, not to mention the eye strain and fatigue that could conceivably surface. Suki clearly doesn’t position anything they build expressly for accessibility, yet it’s obvious the Suki Assistant has as much relevance as an assistive technology as more consumer-facing digital butlers like Siri and Alexa. The bottom line, at least in this context, is many doctors will not only work better if they use Suki to maintain patient records. The truth is, they’ll feel better too as a side effect of doing their jobs more efficiently.

Feedback on the Suki Assistant, Soni said, has been “really positive.” He cited a large healthcare system using Epic as its health records provider being “amazed” at how well Suki pulls up schedules and how it integrates with Epic’s software. He also noted people’s pleasure with Suki’s ambient note-taking capability. All told, Soni said people in the field are immensely enjoying the Suki tech in their day-to-day lives, adding they “appreciate the freedom and flexibility Suki offers because now they can do their notes [and more] anywhere they have their phone—they don’t have to be in front of their computers anymore.”

Ultimately, what Soni and his team have done is harness AI to do genuine good for the world by making record-keeping not simply more efficient but accessible too—in a way not dissimilar to how Apple’s just-announced Personal Voice and Point to Speak accessibility features change the usability game. As Soni explained, artificial intelligence and machine learning is just tech. It’s soulless, inanimate, inhuman.

“By itself, [AI] doesn’t solve anything,” he said.

Soni continued: “Suki’s primary value is that every pixel in the company is [created] in service of the clinician. That culture is what makes us different. Anyone can build a product, but the special sauce that makes it useful is empathy. That is the magic that is a key part of Suki.”

Looking ahead, Soni is tantalized by the possibilities for his work.

“Our mission is to make healthcare technology invisible and assistive so clinicians can focus on what they love: patient care. We want to be able to help every clinician who needs more time back and we are just scratching the surface of what we can do,” he said of his company’s future. “There are so many potential applications of our technology, from simplifying the orders process to helping nurses complete their tasks by voice to enabling clinicians to answer patient portal messages by voice. We have an ambitious, exciting roadmap of features we’re working on, and I can’t wait to show this work to the world.”

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