Augmedix Inc., which has developed a physician charting solution using Google Glass, has closed a $17 million strategic round of funding that includes investments from several large healthcare systems, including Sutter Health, Dignity Health, Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI), and TriHealth Inc.
The funding round will enable Augmedix and its investors to scale the Google Glass-powered service across health systems and private clinics nationwide. Augmedix says its service frees doctors from charting, allowing them to focus on patient needs. Before entering the exam room, a doctor dons Google Glass and then proceeds to talk with patients, rather than typing into a computer screen. Forms, health history, lab orders, prescriptions and more are completed using a remote scribe, verbal notes and commands.
Davin Lundquist, M.D., vice president and chief medical information officer for Dignity Health, said that after extensive testing in a four-physician primary-care practice, Dignity is ready to expand its use of the Augmedix service. “We’ve had great success with our early use,” he said. “All of the providers experienced the same benefits of decreased documentation and time-saving of from 8 to 10 hours per week.” (Dignity is a 21-state network of 9,000 physicians, 59,000 employees, and more than 400 care centers.)
Lundquist said because Google Glass is a new technology and new concept, Dignity took its time working on privacy and security aspects, partnering with compliance and clinic management to understand the impact of getting consent and any impact on patient satisfaction scores. “We observed all of that with a small group for a year or so and then finally felt comfortable that we were ready to expand and so began working with Augmedix on what it would take to move this to other sites and other markets and now we are in that process. Other physicians in several other markets are ready to start using it.”
Lundquist sees great potential in the technology. Because physicians have to do so much documenting related to insurance and quality initiatives, they are not always using their time most effectively. “If you can take certain work off the shoulders of our physicians and free them up, you are talking about a work force that is very intelligent, compassionate and has a lot to offer,” he said. “The potential of that work force being freed up 8 to 10 hours a week is tremendous to think about. They could see more patients, focus on improving the quality of care, or get creative with that time and solve things we haven’t even thought of.”