Suki, a company that has built and tested a voice-operated digital assistant for physicians, has raised a new round of capital, an investment that could lead to new services and software that is more sophisticated at recognizing language. In total, Suki has raised $20 million.
The Suki device, powered by artificial intelligence, is designed to not only replace traditional transcription of notes and orders, but also to retrieve patient data in the increasingly digital healthcare industry. The overall idea is to reduce the amount of time doctors must spend on paperwork — which Suki said is a major cause of physician burnout — and give them more face-to-face interactions with patients.
“Similar to how [users] prompt Alexa, Suki understands voice commands from a physician and uses them to create a clinically accurate note that is then pushed to an [electronic healthcare] system,” a company spokeswoman said. “For example, a doctor can use the word 'Suki' to wake up the assistant, after which they can give an instruction or ask Suki to take notes. Because Suki integrates with the EHR, the doctor can also use the assistant to retrieve and review clinical information, like an X-ray or lab result.”
Suki has raised $15 million in a Series A funding round led by Venrock, which included First Round and Social Capital, as well as individual Googlers and angel investors, Nat Turner of Flatiron Health and Marc Benioff. Venrock previously led Suki’s $5 million seed round.
The capital will go toward such areas as business, engineering and the addition of new physician services, a company spokeswoman said, as Suki keeps working to improve the device’s ability to understand human language. Suki is part of 12 pilots. Those tests involve specialties including internal medicine, ophthalmology, orthopedics and plastic surgery.
So far, the dozen Suki pilots have shown that using the device can reduce the amount of time physicians spend on medical notes by up to 60 percent. Generally, doctors spend about two hours on medical paperwork for every hour of “direct clinical facetime with a patient,” according to the company.