Suki Emerges with $20M to Build an "Alexa for Doctors"

Ryan Black
MAY 02, 2018


When you go to Robin AI’s website, you’ll still see the logo and its “AI‑Powered, Voice‑Enabled Digital Assistant for Doctors” tagline for a second before you’re redirected to Suki’s homepage. That’s the company’s new name, and their recent coming-out party was accompanied by $20 million in new funding.

That money should help them towards their goal of building an artificial intelligence-powered, physician-minded voice assistant, in the spirit of Amazon’s Alexa devices or the Google Home. The tech will integrate with electronic health record (EHR) systems to provide doctors with instant, command-controlled documentation and ordering capabilities.

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Suki’s technology is already undergoing 12 pilot studies in California and Georgia. It’s being tested by clinicians in multiple specialties who use a variety of different EHR platforms. Early returns show that it “cuts the amount of time physicians spend on medical notes up to 60 percent,” according to the company’s official statement.

Healthcare professionals often gripe about administrative burden associated with EHRs. In a recent interview, Cota Healthcare’s Andrew Pecora, MD, lamented that doctors had been turned into “secretaries” and drawn away from their primary focus of patient care.

Michael Behr, MD, thinks the new technology could help alleviate that problem. He is the medical director for a series of Atlanta-based orthopedic practices that are participating in 1 of the pilots. Behr said that the AI that Suki brings to the EHR “will dramatically improve a physician's ability to spend more time with the patient and less time in front of a computer.”

There’s also an element of personalization—which is another byproduct of the AI. In the same way that devices like the Alexa or Apple HomePod advertise the ability to play you some music you’d like based on previous listening habits, Suki wants its device to produce a care plan based on how a doctor typically treats a patient with a given diagnosis.

"AI is changing the world around us, and it's about time that it does the same for health care," said Punit Soni, the company’s chief executive officer and co-founder. “With Suki, we have created a solution that is personalized to each doctor, inexpensively scalable, and easy to implement to make your work day easier. It's like having a chief resident in the exam room with you who knows how you practice."

Soni is a former executive at Google and Flipkart—India’s answer to Amazon—and he first began developing the company under the name Learning Motors before rebranding as Robin AI in June 2017 and finally settling on its current moniker.

The new funding comes from some equally savvy people and institutions across the health and tech spheres. The majority of the money came through a $15 million Series A round, led by venture firm Venrock and supported by names like Marc Benioff, the Salesforce founder and frequent healthtech investor, and Flatiron CEO Nat Turner, whose startup was just bought by Roche for nearly $2 billion. The rest of the cash came from a $5 million seed round which concluded in March.

The money, however, isn’t nearly the most important thing to Soni. “I could not be more emotionally exhausted today. And the least of things causing it is the funding announcement,” he tweeted last night. “I. Just. Want. The. Product. To. Delight. And that needs to happen yesterday.”
 
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