Generative AI remains a hot area within the digital health world — investment dollars are flowing to companies in this space, and more providers are piloting this technology to alleviate clinical burnout. Abridge — a Pittsburgh-based company that automates clinical documentation — is the latest example of a generative AI startup advancing in the healthcare industry.
On Wednesday, Epic announced that it will integrate Abridge’s clinical documentation tool into its EHR workflow.
This partnership makes Abridge one of the first companies to become part of Epic’s new “Partners and Pals” program, which is meant to help vendors create deeper EHR integrations for their products, the EHR giant said in the press release. Epic also said it would reveal more details about the program during its annual user conference next week.
Abridge was founded in 2018 by UPMC cardiologist Shiv Rao and two Carnegie Mellon University researchers, Sandeep Konam and Florian Metze. They created the company to alleviate physician burnout by decreasing “pajama time,” which refers to the hours clinicians spend entering clinical notes after work.
U.S. physicians spend an average of nearly 2 hours each day completing documentation outside work hours. Documenting the visits that patients have with their providers is important, but that task shouldn’t be stealing upwards of 10 hours per week from physicians, Rao pointed out in a recent interview.
In his view, healthcare is driven by conversations — but neither physicians nor patients can remember these conversations very well. Abridge’s technology is designed to help both patients and physicians with this problem. The startup’s documentation tool listens to visits and creates a near-instant summary that adheres to physicians’ prototypical note structure.
“Abridge’s AI turns recordings of medical conversations into draft clinical notes — helping clinicians focus on patients instead of notes, while also reducing their administrative workload. Instead of spending hours typing notes after clinic hours, Abridge AI works in real-time and assists clinicians in fulfilling their documentation requirements,” Rao explained.
Beyond note generation, Abridge also uses generative AI to summarize and structure relevant information pertaining to each patient visit, giving clinicians more complete coding and billing documentation. The company’s technology also generates care instructions for patients to follow at home.
The startup’s AI models were trained using a proprietary dataset derived from more than 1.5 million medical visits. These models are being continually trained, and that dataset is “always growing and evolving,” Rao declared.
He said that Abridge’s integration with Epic is exciting because the company believes it will help it achieve its mission of improving the care delivery experience at scale.
“Health systems can now adopt an already powerful generative AI solution in a familiar Epic workflow, with as little as two weeks of implementation,” Rao explained. “Abridge can also help patients get a better understanding of their conversations with providers as notes flow directly into their record.”
By establishing a deep integration into Epic’s EHR, Abridge can save even more time for clinicians, he added. Research shows that deeply integrated EHR tools take up to 75% less time for a physician to use than an external app or website, Rao said.
In the past, Abridge had worked closely with Epic to enable integrated EHR workflows for clinicians using its technology at UPMC and the University of Kansas Health System. Thousands of clinicians at both health systems use the startup’s AI tool. Along with the announcement of its expanded Epic partnership, Abridge also revealed that Emory Healthcare in Atlanta will integrate its tool into clinicians’ EHR workflows.
While some large health systems use Abridge’s solution, it is certainly not the only company offering an AI tool to aid clinical documentation. For example, Nuance (acquired by Microsoft), DeepScribe and Suki also offer this technology.
Rao said that Nuance is the only competitor Abridge “faces on a regular basis” and that it is the only other company currently taking part in Epic’s new Partners and Pals program. Nuance “is adding AI features to its legacy products,” and Abridge has an advantage because it is a generative AI native, Rao declared.
“Virtually none of the technologies at the core of legacy scribe solutions and their non-tech elements, like humans in the loop, are relevant in the era of generative AI. We have had significant advantages with starting from a clean sheet. Our team includes some of the world’s leading experts on the responsible use of AI in healthcare, including professors from Carnegie Mellon, and key hires from Meta and Amazon AI,” he said.
The fact that Abridge was founded by a clinician also gives it an upper hand against competitors, as this helps ensure that the company deeply understands core clinical user needs, Rao added.
Additionally, he argued that Abridge publishes more peer-reviewed papers on note-related physician burnout and how its technology is working to solve it than any other competing company. Rao said this was important because all healthcare AI companies should make an effort to be more transparent.
Photo: invincible_bulldog, Getty Images