Sutter Health to Pilot Voice-Enabled Digital Assistant for Physicians

March 26, 2019
Goal is to maximizing the amount of time clinicians spend with patients while reducing the documentation burden

To address physician documentation burdens, Sacramento-based Sutter Health is piloting an artificial intelligence-powered, voice-enabled digital assistant with doctors in Northern California.

 The nonprofit Sutter network will use a digital assistant from a company called Suki founded by former Google and Salesforce executives. Using a combination of voice commands from a physician and context in which they are operating, the company says Suki creates a clinical note that is then pushed to an electronic health record (EHR) system.

 “Maximizing the amount of time clinicians spend with patients while reducing the documentation burden on our clinicians is a strategic and tactical priority,” said Howard Landa, M.D., vice president of clinical informatics and EHR for Sutter Health, in a prepared statement. “Personalized care paired with digital assistant tools will enhance care delivery and have a positive impact on health outcomes for our consumers, which is what really matters.”

Sutter will initially introduce Suki into three clinical practice areas—primary care, dermatology and orthopedics. Over time with use, Suki can distill a doctor's conversation with a patient into an actionable plan, based on the doctor’s known preferences and clinical practice guidelines.

 As an example, Sutter said a doctor could tell Suki, “I did my typical diabetes counseling” for a patient, and Suki knows how to create relevant content for the note—and the resulting note is tuned not only to the doctor's medical specialty, but also to his or her own vocabulary and style. This type of support can lend to streamlined documentation inside the patient’s EHR, which can help create the most appropriate care plans for patients. One goal is to free up time from administrative tasks, giving patients and providers more one-on-one time during visits.  

 Redwood City, Calif.-based Suki, which launched pilots in May 2018 across multiple specialties, said the pilots showed up to a 70 percent reduction in the amount of time physicians spend on medical notes.

 The company also said it would work with the Sutter Health network to build a data layer on top of the clinical notes that will address use cases such as clinical decision support.