As someone managing a few chronic health conditions, I know what it is to feel that you can’t possibly retain all the information you get during a physician visit. No matter how well your doctor communicates, it’s inevitable some nuances will be lost when you look back at a visit, even if you take detailed notes on what was said.
For that reason, it’s good to see that tech companies are stepping up to address this aspect of documenting care, one which, as it turns out, AI is well-suited to address.
So far, much of the activity around AI-driven documentation looks worth the larger picture. Big tech companies like Microsoft are already developing technology which will ultimately deliver AI-driven hands-free visit documentation. In the future, Microsoft says, it expects to deploy what he calls ambient clinical intelligence which will write clinical documentation on behalf of doctors.
Meanwhile, startups are focusing on smaller subsets of the AI documentation market which by themselves probably seem insignificant to the juggernauts of the tech business.
In short, Abridge uses AI to create a post-visit summary of patient consults without human intervention. It seems that this applies only to telehealth visits at the moment but that’s hardly a problem with the current circumstances.
Abridge provides a free app that records telehealth conversations. Doctors who use Abridge for telephone consults call patients through a special number provided for the company.
The app is paired with a machine learning-driven platform designed by Carnegie Mellon University which extracts key medical information from the conversation while screening out chitchat.
According to an article appearing on NEXT Pittsburgh, the system then produces a “smart” summary of the encounter in text form. If they wish, patients can replay audio of the visit to review the discussion. The final transcript also includes links to additional information on whatever health concern the patient has.
The venture, which was launched last year, has seen its potential audience expand with the advent of COVID-19. With most routine care taking place online or on the phone, there’s a new level of demand for technology that can better manage the flow of information generated by such visits. This has put Abridge in the right place at the perfect time.
Not long ago I wrote a column warning that we now need to extract more information from telehealth encounters. I’m glad to see we’ll extract information from phone calls and videos, and it’s good to see that at least one vendor is already on the case.
Of course, it’s not clear whether this approach to documenting telehealth in sophisticated enough to become a standard tool and accurate enough to meet everyone’s standards. Vendors will get past this obstacle, though. AI-driven automated documentation is on the verge of going mainstream.