Each year, to accompany our Healthcare Informatics 100 list of the largest companies in U.S. health information technology, we profile six fast-growing companies that could very well make The 100 in the future.
The growth trajectory of these startups suggests they could have a significant impact in health information technology. Most have drawn strong interest from venture capitalists. Others are coming at seemingly intractable problems in healthcare from completely new angles. The next company on this year’s list is San Francisco-based Augmedix Inc.
Editor’s note: All of the 2017 up-and-comer stories can be read, as they come out this week, right here.
In the summer of 2012, Ian Shakil had just completed his M.B.A. degree at Stanford University. His friend Pelu Tran was in his fourth year of medical school at Stanford. In a social setting, a Google employee happened to let them try an early prototype of Google Glass. Both immediately saw the potential value in a clinical setting. “I became obsessed. I quit my job to co-found Augmedix even before having a Google Glass device,” Shakil recalls. “A few months later, Pelu dropped out of medical school. That was a bold move.”
Today they have nearly 1,000 people around the world working for Augmedix Inc., a San Francisco-based company that has developed a physician charting solution using Google Glass. Shakil is CEO and Tran is president.
Augmedix says its service frees doctors from charting, allowing them to focus on patient needs. Before entering the exam room, a doctor dons Google Glass and then proceeds to talk with patients, rather than typing into a computer screen. Forms, health history, lab orders, prescriptions and more are completed using a remote scribe, verbal notes and commands.
In 2013 during their startup phase, they worked with a few angel investors, and then they got into the Rock Health accelerator. Then in 2016 Augmedix closed a $17 million strategic round of funding that included investments from several large healthcare systems, including Sutter Health, Dignity Health, Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI), and TriHealth Inc. Here is how that unusual investment came together: Shakil says a few potential customers had started making noises about wanting to invest in the company. “We didn’t want to be a Dignity shop or a Sutter shop,” he says. “We wanted a broader array of partners and we brought the idea up with several of them organically, and to my surprise, they all said that is a great idea and invested together.”
Shakil says the number of health systems partnering with the company continues to grow. “Even in the last few months we have doubled the number of health systems,” he adds. “Today we have about a dozen multistate large health systems.” To date, the company has raised $60 million in funding.
The company has remote scribes located in the U.S., but also in the Dominican Republic, India and Bangladesh. Shakil admits there have been all kinds of challenges to overcome in building a global network of facilities, staff and trainers. ‘But we have passed the startup difficulty part; now we are in the scale-up challenge part,” he said.
Initially the bulk of customers were small, independent doctors. Now the customer base is 90 percent enterprise organizations. “We had to prove our security and quality for a long time before health systems felt comfortable diving in themselves,” he says, adding that the company also worked to improve its Wi-Fi networking technology.
Augmedix plans to start diversifying its offerings on Google Glass. “We primarily offer this time-saving benefit of documentation. We scribe for you and save you a third of your day, which is fantastic,” Shakil says. “We are going to start offering a la carte services that allow doctors to sign up to get nudges and reminders if they forget chronic care conditions or check lists. Or we could allow them to query other doctors or bring them onto the call during a visit. There is an array of additional things we are going to start layering into the platform. So really this is just the beginning.”
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