Notable, an intelligent automation company focused on health care, today announced it received a $100 million series B funding round. The investment, led by ICONIQ Growth with participation from Greylock Ventures, Oak HC/ FT, and F-Prime, will be used to expand access to more health care providers and enhance its capabilities, so partners achieve a higher return on investment.
The reality is that many health care providers still use repetitive, manual workflows, which cost over $1 trillion in administrative overhead per year. A patient may spend seven minutes with a physician – but that visit could result in hundreds of minutes of administrative work per clinician, according to Pranay Kapadia, cofounder, and CEO of Notable. Using AI, Notable can eliminate more than 700 minutes of that administrative work, including creating clinical documentation and adding billing codes for the insurance claim processing.
The investment points to a larger industry trend toward using AI to improve patient care and streamline processes. Care sites like Intermountain Healthcare and CommonSpirit Health already use Notable, which automates everything from patient scheduling and check-in to post-visit follow-up, as well as creating clinical documentation and adding billing codes.
Demand for AI continues to increase as patients expect a digital-first experience due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the “great resignation” that has left every industry — including health care — short-staffed. “Technology needs to drive ten times the efficiency at a quarter of the cost,” said Kapadia.
“Technology is the future of everything, and health care is no exception,” said Andrew J. Scott, founding partner of 7percent Ventures. “Artificial intelligence is already having a positive impact. Companies like Kheiron Medical can already perform mammography analysis for breast cancer better than a human.”
7percent Ventures invests in AI technology including Limbic, which uses AI for mental health triage and support, and Kherion Medical, which provides improved breast cancer diagnosis. These “are the sorts of transformative technologies that have a positive impact and improve the way we live,” he said.
Will AI Provide All Diagnoses?
Going all-in on AI in a health care setting may speed up a diagnosis – but it also takes away a physician’s autonomy in making the diagnosis and recommending treatment, according to Robert Wachter, MD, professor, and chair of the Department of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco.
“There are a lot of sources of pushback, from the physician’s ego to worries about malpractice and who is liable, to ethical issues around AI,” such as whether the data is biased, he said. For example, the data may note that patients of one race don’t need as much medication as patients of another, without taking into account that particular patient’s situation.
AI will tackle more tractable problems like workflows before heading into the more difficult ones like diagnosis and prognosis, but there won’t be a real “AI moment,” Wachter said. “You start …where the stakes are less high, with business and operational problems.”
Instead, AI will augment what physicians are doing and provide options, including triage, but ultimately leave the decision up to the physician’s discretion.
“I see AI working silently behind the scenes of the busy clinician,” said Chris Larkin, chief technology officer at Concord Technologies. “The models will continue to gather data on patient diagnosis and trajectories and update the clinician when it’s appropriate. This is more like modern avionics, working on behalf of the pilot of the aircraft.”
For example, ICU nurses hear thousands of patient alarms on their shifts, many of which are false. AI can help the nurses decide which ones are most pressing based on the patient’s diagnosis and attend to them first, Larkin said.
Some clinicians already are using AI and machine learning exactly this way. “I’ve used VIDA Insights as an AI agent to assist me in interpreting chest CTs,” said John Newell, MD, professor of radiology and biomedical engineering, director of the Radiology Image Phenotyping Laboratory, and the co-director of the Iowa Institute for Biomedical Imaging.
Additionally, AI can help lower costs for both patients and health care organizations while providing better care. “If AI can help us to diagnose disease earlier and with more accuracy, the impact on reducing the cost of patient care can be significant,” Newell said.
“For example, a patient with early-stage COPD spends about $1,600 [per] year on care versus a patient with advanced-stage COPD who spends nearly $11,000 [per] year. COPD is often diagnosed later in the disease process, so any tools that can help providers identify it early can have a massive impact on population health care costs.”
Despite the opportunities AI provides for the health care industry, humans will always be needed — and AI doesn’t aim to entirely displace them. “With all the AI in the world, [there’s still] a certain level of empathy that comes in health care,” Kapadia said, noting that, like comforting a child with a sore throat, AI isn’t needed for that.
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