Suki’s mission is to make health technology assistive and invisible: Nitin Gupta

Mr. Nitin Gupta, India Head, Sukirecently spoke with CXOToday about the challenges we face in integrating AI/ML in healthcare and how data privacy plays an important role in managing health data to create a national digital health infrastructure and an open data exchange network between different providers and users. He also discusses in detail Suki’s support for bridging the technology gap in healthcare using AI/ML.

  1. An overview of the Indian healthcare ecosystem and its technology infrastructure?

“According to Nasscom, India’s healthcare sector is expected to reach $372 billion by 2022 (CAGR of over 16%).” While the sector has grown significantly over the past few years, significant challenges remain in increasing coverage and quality of care.

These challenges include:

  • In a diverse and vast country like India, access to remote areas is very difficult
  • The bad doctor to patient ratio is 1:1500
  • Lack of standardization in operating procedures, skill requirements and regulation leads to variability in care and increases the risk of diagnostic errors
  • Low insurance penetration of only about 20% in our population

While trying to resolve these challenges, healthcare organizations in India today struggle to maintain a balance between 3 interrelated factors viz. price, affordability and quality that are at odds with each other. For example, initiatives that focus on improving the quality of care are often expensive and available to few.

However, AI-driven healthcare technology solutions have the potential to deliver high-quality care in an accessible, low-cost manner. For example, remote monitoring can help more patients receive high-quality care and ultimately help reduce costs by reducing complications.

Also, although there is active innovation in the sector today (NASSCOM recently reported that around 18% of all AI patents filed in India are from the healthcare space); one of the biggest challenges facing the ecosystem is the lack of an AI community specializing in healthcare. As a result, there is no cohesive learning, case studies or best practices to adopt and learn from. There is a shortage of qualified mentors who understand both the healthcare field and the technology capabilities. Also, AI research specifically focused on healthcare in academia that can help the larger ecosystem is very minimal. Entrepreneurs must rely on trial and error when working in the industry, which is suboptimal given the importance of health care to each individual. In fact, we at Suki are evaluating how we can collaborate with some of India’s leading academic institutions to drive more AI-led research in healthcare.

  1. How is health data created and used? How does data privacy play an important role in health data management?

Data in healthcare systems still exist in silos and add strain as well as duplication of work for clinicians. For example, nurses spend a significant amount of time entering data from devices into the EHR. Allowing this data to flow automatically to the relevant systems would be a huge benefit that technical intervention could bring.

The healthcare industry is very complex as it brings together many different players such as hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, retail, medical devices, diagnostic centers, aftercare centers, insurance companies, etc. And although all of them can benefit greatly by collaborating and sharing data with each other to achieve the best results, there is very little focus on the same because they do not see immediate value.

Another challenge is that AI-generated solutions and models are usually difficult to explain and there is a lack of understanding of what is possible with AI. Therefore, it is difficult for stakeholders to see value in data sharing that can lead to more useful AI-driven solutions, and one of the biggest reasons is data privacy requirements.

Healthcare is a highly regulated field, as patient health information data is among the most sensitive types of data. Healthcare organizations face the risk of significant criminal charges, fines and reputational damage in the event of data breaches. So there are high barriers to data sharing. This also applies to developed markets. The US healthcare system is witnessing mass adoption of EHRs and other technology solutions, but interoperability remains a challenge.

To overcome these challenges, it is necessary to build strategic alliances and win-win partnerships between healthcare organizations and technology providers so that they can come together to realize the full potential of AI-driven healthcare technology solutions. Government initiatives such as the Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission should help where there is an intention to create a national digital health infrastructure and an open network for data exchange between different providers and users.

  1. How Suki is Bridging the Healthcare Technology Gap Using AI/ML?

Suki aims to solve one of the major global problems in the healthcare industry: physician burnout. Doctors and other healthcare professionals today face a huge administrative burden when it comes to tasks such as clinical documentation, entering orders for drugs or laboratory tests, answering patient messages, etc., where they spend two hours on these tasks for each hour spent on patient care.

Suki’s mission is to make health technology assistive and invisible, removing the administrative burden from doctors so they can focus on what they love to do, which is caring for patients. We believe that voice is a more natural and faster way to interact, and voice-enabled solutions can help clinicians complete their tasks faster and easier. And keeping that at the core of what we do, we’ve developed our flagship voice-enabled and AI digital assistant that uses the latest speech technology and advanced natural language processing algorithms. With this, doctors speak naturally to complete tedious administrative tasks, such as clinical documentation or downloading information from the EHR.

We also offer our own voice platform, the Suki Speech Platform, to healthcare partners who want to create a best-in-class voice experience for their own solutions. In this way, we stay true to our mission of making health technology assistive and invisible through our partner solutions as well.

  1. Challenges faced by Suki and steps taken to overcome them

There have been several major challenges along the journey and growth. The first challenge was to really understand the problems and pain points our users were facing. The culture of healthcare practitioners is very different from that of technologists, so customer empathy is very important. One of the ways we’ve dealt with this is by making medical practitioners a core part of our team. The other way we instill a customer focus is by making customer visits and interactions a top priority for every person in the company so they can directly understand the issues and concerns of clinicians.

The second challenge is that healthcare is a conservative, slow-moving industry, somewhat at odds with startup culture, which is fast-moving and typically operates on shorter time horizons. Building a healthcare startup requires a team that understands our vision, a longer-term view of what we’re building and what we’re trying to achieve, and the patience to sit through long sales cycles. We reinforce this with our team all the time.

Finally, another key challenge is building a high-performing, fun culture through the ups and downs of startup life, where the team is empowered to give their best, move with agility, and grow in their careers. At the end of the day, it’s about the people, and if they can find a great environment, they can thrive and achieve anything. We have a well-defined set of company values ​​and ensure that starting from our hiring process to regular day-to-day work, employees demonstrate these values ​​continuously.

  1. The future of technology integration in healthcare and Suki’s future roadmap for contributing to the technological advancement of the global healthcare ecosystem?

Suki strives to help every physician, clinician, practice and health system around the world with their administrative burden. We are rapidly expanding our user base and are focused on growing our footprint. To do this, increasing the capabilities of our solutions is key.

Suki Assistant will continue to expand its capabilities to include other administrative tasks such as invoicing and orders. Our goal is to make Suki a true digital assistant that can help with any administrative task a clinician may need to handle. With the Suki Speech platform, we have huge opportunities in front of us in terms of delivering voice experiences through various use cases that our partners provide. We will continue to expand our partner base and strive to build the Suki brand as the analogue of voice in healthcare.

While most of our market is currently in the US, India is also proving to be a very exciting market. With further digitization in healthcare through government initiatives such as the Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission, we believe Suki will be able to add immense value to the lives of doctors and healthcare professionals in India. We expect India to be an important market for us in the coming years. In the meantime, the Suki India team will continue to grow and provide a global platform for India’s technology talent to solve some of the most relevant and complex healthcare problems around the world.

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