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We Are Rapidly Expanding Our User Base And Focused On Growing Our Footprint: Punit Singh Soni, Founder & CEO, Suki AI

Our goal is to help establish India as a global hub for solving the biggest and most complex healthcare challenges faced by the world.

What is the story behind Suki AI’s inception? How challenging has it been for you?

After spending many years at Google and having spent some time as the Chief Product Officer at Flipkart, I wanted to start a stab at solving something that had a huge societal value. I was interested in healthcare and I spent a few months shadowing doctors to learn about how they work and their pain points. In these sessions, it struck me that the doctors were typically the most distracted person in the appointment. They were trying to listen to their patients while also capturing relevant details in the electronic health record (EHR), systems that are not known for being intuitive and easy to use. I felt it was a huge disservice that these highly trained medical professionals had to spend so much time on clerical work, instead of patient care and I felt technology, ML, NLP, could be used to alleviate this burden. So that’s what I set out to do.

And yes, there have been several major challenges throughout the journey. The first is healthcare is a conservative, slow-moving industry that is somewhat at odds with startup culture, which is fast-moving and typically operating under shorter time horizons. Building a healthcare startup requires more resources, a long-term view of what we are building and what we are trying to accomplish, and a great team that understands the vision, executes against it, and has the patience to endure lengthy sales cycles. The second challenge is to build great solutions, we have to understand the issues and challenges our users face. The culture of healthcare clinicians is very different from technologists, so building understanding and empathy is very critical. One way we addressed this is by having practicing physicians on our team. For example, our Head of Product is a practicing general surgeon. She intimately understands physician workflows and the difficulties of doing administrative tasks in the EHR. Her insight is invaluable to helping us build a product that not only addresses clinician needs but is also one they enjoy using. The other way we instill customer focus is by making customer visits and interactions a top priority for every person in the company. Every person who joins Suki attends sales calls and customer training calls so they can understand the questions, issues, and concerns that clinicians have. When possible, we have our team meet customers in person as well. These methods have helped build customer understanding and empathy, but it is an ongoing process that we have to continuously invest in.

Finally, another key challenge is building a high-performing, fun culture while living all the ups and downs of startup life. I want every person at Suki to do their best work, be empowered to make improvements, move quickly, grow in their careers, and have fun. It’s hard to build this, especially as the team grows quickly across many locations, and when there are many, many priorities competing for attention, from sales pipeline to product development to fundraising. We are mindful to take time on a regular basis to review our values and our culture and discuss as a team what we want our company to be like. This is one of the top priorities for me and I regularly think about how we can do this better.

What is company’s role in bringing about disruptions in healthcare space with the help of its products and services?

Suki is focused on lifting the administrative burden from physicians. Physicians have so many clerical tasks on their plate – studies show they spend two hours on these tasks for every hour they spend on patient care. This administrative burden is driving extremely high levels of physician burnout, and we believe technology can help alleviate this problem.

Suki Assistant is an AI-powered, voice-enabled digital assistant for doctors. We use the latest in ML, NLP/NLU to create an intuitive, personalized solution that adapts to each user. The user simply speaks naturally, and Suki will understand and accurately help complete tasks for the user, from clinical documentation to diagnosis coding to retrieving information from the EHR. We strive to be a solution that is not only effective, but one that our users enjoy using. Healthcare tech does not have the reputation for being easy to use or beautiful – instead, it typically burdens users with complicated workflows that require many clicks and dropdowns to complete. We want to create a consumer-grade experience for our users – like everyone else, clinicians use great apps like Netflix or Amazon in their personal lives. They should have that type of great user experience in the tech they use in their professional lives as well.

What digitally services do Suki Ai Offer to assist doctors to lift up the clerical work? How are doctors liking it?

Physician burnout is an epidemic. Up to 70% of physicians say they experience some level of burnout, and the primary reason is due to the massive amounts of administrative work placed on them. Suki’s mission is to lift the administrative burden from doctors, so they can focus on what matters – their patients. Suki Assistant uses the latest in AI and voice technologies so physicians can speak naturally to complete their administrative tasks, from clinical documentation to diagnosis coding to retrieving information from the EHR. Our studies show users reduce their documentation time by an average of 76%. We take a lot of care in creating a solution our users enjoy, and are very gratified to hear positive feedback from our users, such as Dr. Alex Ereso, plastic surgeon, who says “Not only did Suki increase the quality of my time with patients, but it also improved the quality of my notes. The level of detail in my Suki notes has improved decision making during surgery as well as with post-op care.” And we are proud to have a 51 net promoter score, on par with brands known for their excellent user experiences such as Apple and Amazon.

Give a short brief about Suki Ai’s Recent collaborations and partnerships that have helped them strengthen their presence in the start-up space?

The Suki team has extensive experience designing and developing cutting-edge technology, consumer, healthcare, and enterprise products for companies like Apple, Google, and IBM Watson.

Since our founding in 2017, we have rapidly innovated and gained traction in the market. Initially launched as a web application, Suki Assistant quickly developed additional modalities, so users have a seamless experience regardless of platform, and is now used on mobile (iOS and Android), and as a Windows application. Suki’s capabilities have increased from documentation-only to include other administrative skills including diagnosis coding and retrieving information from the EHR. We have invested in our integration capabilities and are compatible with top EHRs including Epic, Cerner, and Athena. We’ve partnered with top health systems and clinics who provide Suki to help their employed physicians save time on administrative tasks, as well as leading medical associations, such as the American Academy of Family Physicians who recognize Suki as an essential innovation for their members and the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons who selected Suki as a recommended documentation solution for their membership.

Finally, we made our proprietary voice platform, Suki Speech Platform (SSP), available to partners who want to create a best-in-class voice experience for their solutions. Suki Speech Platform is used by leading companies in healthcare, including top clinical communications and medical device companies, to power their voice experiences

What does the future look like for Suki AI when it comes to AI-enabled voice solutions and how has the pandemic helped in accelerating the need for it?

The pandemic and adoption of technology in healthcare has brought a quantum shift in the sector. Digital transformation across industries due to the pandemic has opened tremendous opportunities of leveraging deep tech (AI, ML, Blockchain, etc) to help the overall health tech ecosystem evolve.

Natural Language Processing when combined with AI, is giving way to advanced voice solutions in the healthcare sector. The new generation of chatbots are NLP-powered agents that get smarter each day by carrying information from one conversation to the next and learning as they go. Voice assistants using ML and NLP enable physicians to create notes by speaking naturally, streamlining tedious workflows and reducing documentation time so physicians can focus on patient care. With the pandemic and the rise of AI, the healthcare sector is undergoing a transformation, adopting smarter and more user-friendly solutions for physicians globally.

What is your future roadmap for India? What is your plan of action to expand your footprint in India and to reach out to your desired audience?

The Indian startup ecosystem is truly brimming with excellent talent. We at Suki are very excited to provide a truly global platform to India’s tech talent to build for the future of health systems and emerge as the torchbearer of the still nascent SaaS based healthcare technology space in the country.

Our goal is to help establish India as a global hub for solving the biggest and most complex healthcare challenges faced by the world. With world-class mentors and industry professionals, we are looking for great tech talent who can learn and build at a global scale, which in return will encourage India’s tech talent to venture into healthcare technology as a space to build the best products.

How many doctors and hospitals are currently leveraging Suki Ai services? What strategies are you following to onboard more doctors and hospitals on your platform?

Suki Assistant is used in over 90 health systems and clinics. We serve physicians in over two dozen specialties, including family medicine, orthopedic surgery, OB/Gyn, plastic surgery, and gastroenterology. We assess the time savings we provide to each user and gather qualitative feedback about their experience. Suki helps users reduce their documentation time on average by 76%, and we find that users spread the word about Suki not only within their organizations, but outside as well. In addition, we are active at conferences and have partnerships with medical associations, like the American Academy of Family Physicians, to get the word out about Suki.

Tell us about the recent launch of ‘Windows version of Suki Assistant’. What is the mechanism behind it?

Suki Assistant on Windows extends the Suki experience, enabling users to dictate anywhere on Windows computers. This offering complements Suki’s existing mobile and web apps, rounding out access to Suki Assistant and delivering the health care industry’s first end-to-end voice-enabled digital assistant.

The new Windows app is available at no additional cost to all Suki users and extends the Suki experience across the Windows form factor. Now, the same documentation efficiencies achieved using the mobile and web versions of Suki Assistant—76% reduction for the average physician—extend to Windows computers, allowing physicians to dictate into any EHR field or application.

What are your funding and expansion plans?

In April 2020, Suki raised $20 million in a series B funding, bringing its total funding to $40 million. We are backed by premier investors in technology and healthcare, including Venrock, First Round Capital, Flare Capital Partners, and Breyer Capital.

In the next 5 years we are looking to hire the best talent globally and build products for the world. Secondly, we’ll dramatically expand our user base through health systems and medical groups, advance the AI capabilities of our product, and add new features that streamline documentation, coding, billing, and other administrative tasks for clinicians.

What new products Suki Ai is working on?

Suki aspires to help every doctor, clinician, practice, and health system with their administrative burden. We are rapidly expanding our user base and are focused on growing our footprint. To do so, increasing the capabilities of our solutions is key. Suki Assistant will continue to expand its abilities to include other administrative tasks, including billing and orders, and will start to introduce ambient capabilities where Suki Assistant can begin to complete tasks without the need for the user to issue specific commands.

Source: Business World

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