Augmedix breaking barriers and crossing borders
What has it been like being involved with Augmedix?
Before joining Augmedix I worked for the Boeing company for 11 years and prior to that General Motors for 6.5 years. But I always wanted to work for a start-up. A start-up is dynamic and offers the opportunity to trial run ideas before implementing them into the business model. The dynamism of a start-up attracted me. I was keen to find something that would put me in the midst of the technological revolution. Augmedix offered me that chance and also gave me the opportunity to exercise my 18 years of experience. And the absolute hook, line and sinker was that Augmedix deals with health care. Technological innovations have just started emerging into the healthcare industry.
There is joy in creating something new. There is a learning curve and I have been pleasantly occupied and busy with Augmedix. The growth from last year to this year has been exponential. With the introduction of proper planning and processes we have been successful in reducing cost and in some areas it fell by 75%.
What are the challenges of melding technological innovation in the doctor-patient interaction? How has it proven to be effective?
Patients come to doctors to seek comfort, refuge and the personalized human value for sharing their cause of distress or disease. Technology can be depersonalizing or functions as a barrier. In the US healthcare system, policymakers introduced a law making digital documentation of doctor-patient interaction mandatory. While this was necessary, it also posed the challenge of diverting doctor’s attention away from patients.
Every startup launches with the goal to resolve an issue. Augmedix was found with the goal to improve doctor-patient interaction.The issue Augmedix was founded on was the gap in the doctor-patient interaction and using technology Augmedix augments somebody in the doctor’s office from Bangladesh, India, Srilanka who assists in digital documentation. Doctors wear the Google glass, which has a built-in video camera and a microphone.The scribe sees what the doctor sees. Scribe can ask any question by typing a text, which the doctors will see in google glass and respond verbally. You must be wondering how the patients feel when they hear that we have augmented a scribe from another part of the world? The good news is that currently we have 97% acceptance by the patients and it’s growing. Now doctors have uninterrupted attention and focus towards the patient. The document specialists (as known as Scribes) have become a part of the caregiving support system. Augmedix helps doctors to become efficient. Doctors are just a command away from accessing necessary information and it enriches the doctor-patient relationship by removing the added pressure of constantly having to refer to a file.
Augmedix has plans to launch offshore consultancy through VR services. What does this entail for the medical industry here?
Right now we are focusing on what we are good at and doing it extremely well. As a start-up we want to become profitable by doing one thing very well. And if everything goes well, when we reach our goal of becoming profitable, we plan to focus in growing Bangladesh. We do have a plan to do something in Bangladesh and there are many ideas in the pipeline. Bangladesh is in need of our experience and this will help us to create products and services that will complement the existing healthcare industry in Bangladesh.
There is a vision to use artificial intelligence (AI) to train scribes faster and to supercharge scribe productivity. Has this initiative begun? What is the process of introducing AI into the scribing procedure?
Earlier this year we have launched our AI activity with a small group of engineers, both in Bangladesh and in the US. Their goal is to increase the efficiency of our scribes by incorporating AI. We think AI will never replace the scribes but will help us to improve their efficiency. Currently there are 1 million doctors in USA. If 25% of them use Augmedix or any other service, that’s 250,000 people working as scribes. Today one scribe works with only one doctor, but if we can develop an AI based tool which can assist the scribe, then each scribe will be able to work with multiple doctors. We have speech-to-text tools which works well when there is only one speaker, but as soon as multiple people speak it gets garbled. We are trying to develop a tool which will be able to correctly transcribe the speech of multiple speakers. We will use this tool to increase scribe efficiency. The tool will be transcribing and the scribe will edit the text. We have partnered with a technological giant – to develop the tool.
What are the future plans for taking Augmedix forward?
We will need 7000 scribes from around the world in 2021. The biggest challenge in Bangladesh is the language barrier. We provide services to US doctors and patients. So English becomes a hurdle, while typing becomes the second challenge to overcome. Every year hundreds of thousands of students graduate from 100 plus universities. I am hopeful that we will be able to find the right resources.
Augmedix is still in the first leg of its journey, so the name is slowly but surely creating a buzz. Perhaps one of our key challenges is that we work at night, but we also provide facilities like complimentary dinner and drop-off service to ensure comfort and safety of our employees. We operate round the clock with the scribes working at night. Bangladesh is the backbone for Augmedix offering real-time support.
Augmedix is bringing Silicon Valley culture to Bangladesh. We are offering a great opportunity to our young Scribes who want to work with US doctors and experience the US culture. The grooming that scribes receive at Augmedix will instill confidence in them and give them an edge in the marketplace, and young emerging adults of Bangladesh need to take advantage of it.