Q&A: Evidence mounts that digital assistant Suki saves physicians hours of EMR time
New data show that Suki, a voice-activated and artificial intelligence-based tool that helps physicians with their note-taking process, continues to dramatically reduce the time that physicians spend on documentation.
In a recent study evaluating the device, 61 of 102 physicians who used Suki for 30 days experienced a 72% reduction in their median documentation time per note, saving them 3.3 hours weekly in documentation time. The findings support a prior study that also showed Suki reduced documentation time during and after clinic hours.
Previous research has highlighted the need for solutions to reduce the administrative burden among primary care clinicians. According to a study published last year in JAMA Internal Medicine, clinicians in primary care spent more time on notes — a mean of 51.5 minutes each day — than clinicians in any other specialty.
In addition, about half of U.S. primary care clinicians who were surveyed in 2014 said that electronic medical records had detracted from patient interaction. By 2018, the same survey reported that number had risen to 68%.
Suki could help change the way that users practice medicine, Steven Waldren, MD, MS, the vice president and chief medical informatics officer at the American Academy of Family Physicians, told Healio.
“We’re hopeful that this type of product progresses to the point where it is like having a medical assistant or a nurse that has been working with you for 15 years,” he said.
Once Suki is integrated into an EMR, it can transcribe physicians’ notes, sync them into the EMR and display patients’ test results and other clinical data, Waldren said. The cost of Suki starts at $199 per user per month, according to an AAFP spokesperson. Physicians from any specialty can use it.
Suki is the latest product to emerge from AAFP’s Innovation Lab, an initiative the academy launched to identify tools that reduce administrative burdens that “stifle [physicians’] joy of practice and contribute to the physician well-being crisis,” AAFP said on its website.
Healio spoke with Waldren to learn more about Suki and the AAFP’s Innovation Lab.
Healio: What have you learned about Suki during this latest phase of development?
Waldren: The first thing we did was establish the proof of concept of Suki. The second was understanding those who have a documentation burden would benefit most from its use. Then we looked to understand the key features that make this class of product work for family medicine. One such feature is its adaptability to smartphones, so physicians are not tethered to their EMR. For example, can you be at home washing dishes and use it? You can.
Healio: What are physicians who used Suki saying about the device?
Waldren: Some of the comments we heard were “game changer,” “breakthrough,” and “revolutionizing their practice.” Before Suki, some physicians said they felt rushed. Now they were able to get things done.
Healio: Does AAFP receive any financial incentive for creating, testing or promoting Suki? If so, what do those funds go to?
Waldren: AAFP has not received one dollar from Suki sales. Its manufacturer is an exhibitor at our annual meeting, but we do not get a revenue share of anything that is sold.
The academy has funded the entirety of the innovation lab, yet cannot sustain that indefinitely. So, we are looking at pricing structures, but not revenue shares, moving forward, because it is really important for us to continue to stay unbiased in regard to what kind of products we are looking for.
Healio: What other products are being tested in AAFP’s Innovation Lab?
Waldren: We have two others that are active and a few that are in discussions.
The first is an artificial intelligence assistant exclusively geared towards chart review. It will read through a patient's entire chart, offer preparation tips, create a problem-oriented solution and help make sure the physician is coding appropriately for higher-risk adjustments.
The other is in the direct primary care space to allow physicians to understand how they can deploy direct primary care and manage their practice from that perspective. Such practices have been able to spend more time with their patients, and everyone is more satisfied.
2014 Survey of America’s Physicians. https://physiciansfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/2014_Physicians_Foundation_Biennial_Physician_Survey_Report.pdf Published 2014. Accessed Jan. 20, 2022.
2018 Survey of America’s Physicians https://physiciansfoundation.org/wp content/uploads/2018/09/physicians-survey-results-final-2018.pdf. Published 2018. Accessed Jan. 20, 2022.
AAFP. Innovation Lab. https://www.aafp.org/family-physician/practice-and-career/managing-your-practice/health-it/innovation-lab.html. Accessed Jan. 20, 2022.
Using an AI assistant to reduce documentation burden in family medicine https://www.aafp.org/dam/AAFP/documents/practice_management/innovation_lab/report-suki-assistant-documentation-burden.pdf. Published Dec. 15, 2021. Accessed Jan. 20, 2022.