Sutter Health taps Abridge to roll out generative AI tech for physicians and patients

Abridge, a startup that develops generative AI tools for medical documentation, has notched another major health system partnership to put its technology in front of more physicians.

Sutter Health, a health system with a footprint across Northern California, will launch Abridge's platform in early April with various doctors, nurse practitioners and physician assistants from both primary and specialty care, the health system said Wednesday.

The large not-for-profit, integrated health system, which operates 22 hospitals, wants to use Abridge's gen AI-based technology to benefit physicians and improve patients’ experiences by helping support more focused face-time with clinicians, executives said.

“We are highly focused on innovation as a lever to help us achieve our vision and mission of delivering safe, high quality, equitable care to all of our patients. Sutter is equally committed to the thoughtful integration of emerging technologies like AI in healthcare that support our physicians to help deliver on that mission," Warner Thomas, president and CEO at Sutter Health, in a statement.

The health system has more than 57,000 staff and clinicians and 12,000+ affiliated physicians currently serve more than 3 million patients across its hospitals, ambulatory clinics and medical practices.

The tie-up with Sutter Health broadens Abridge's reach into the California market, on the heels of its partnership with UCI Health, the health system of the University of California, Irvine.

Pittsburgh-based Abridge, one of Fierce Healthcare's Fierce 15 of 2024 honorees, uses AI to increase the speed and accuracy of medical note-taking, leveraging a proprietary data set derived from more than 1.5 million medical encounters. The company's AI converts a patient-clinician conversation into a structured clinical note draft in real time and integrates it seamlessly into the electronic health record system.

Once clinicians review and verify the note, their paperwork is complete. Abridge is available in more than 14 languages and over 50 specialties. Sutter sees that as a distinct advantage as it serves a diverse patient population, executives said.

Physicians spend significant time outside of patient visits working on administrative tasks like writing clinical notes. Health systems across the country are turning to technology like generative AI tools to reduce the burden of documentation. Less cognitive load has been shown to directly correlate with reductions in clinician burnout.

“The technology is designed to fit easily into our teams’ day-to-day workflows inside Epic and will help us better serve our patients by eliminating the burden of clinical documentation that can detract from patient-clinician interactions,” said Laura Wilt, chief digital officer at Sutter Health.

Founded in 2018, Abridge continues to rapidly grow and ink new partnerships with health systems to deploy its technology. Yale New Haven Health System, Emory Healthcare, The University of Kansas Health System, UPMC, and dozens of other health systems also are using Abridge's AI-based clinical documentation technology.

Around 5,000 doctors currently use the company's software.

As part of its collaboration with Sutter Health, Abridge also plans to roll out a generative AI feature for patients. 

The health system will work with Abridge to integrate patient-facing summaries into the EHR. Studies have shown that 40% to 80% of the medical information patients hear during office visits is forgotten immediately, and that clinical documentation does not always cover the details from medical encounters that patients wish to revisit and better understand.

The 'patient summary' tool will be accessible to patients in post-visit digital documents to provide concise information and details about a diagnosis or treatment.

Patient summaries are a prime use case for generative AI, noted Dr. Shiv Rao, CEO and founder of Abridge. 

“Clinicians often don’t have time to write detailed patient instructions and summaries that reflect the details from their conversation that would most benefit the patient,” he said.

In a major win for the company, Epic integrated the company’s generative AI for clinical documentation into its EHR workflow as part of the tech giant's new third-party vendor program.

In past interviews, Rao has pointed to key distinctions in Abridge's capabilities such as the company's "Linked Evidence" feature that maps any highlighted region within a summary to the substantiating evidence in the source transcript. The company is actively developing novel ways to personalize notes, integrate more deeply into the electronic health record and provide clinicians with after-visit insights, executives said.

Abridge recently banked a hefty $150 million series C funding round backed by Lightspeed Venture Partners and Redpoint Ventures along with Union Square Ventures, Bessemer Venture Partners, Mass General Brigham Artificial Intelligence and Digital Innovation Fund (AIDIF), Kaiser Permanente Ventures and CVS Health Ventures.

That funding round included a strategic investment from chipmaker Nvidia. The two companies recently announced a collaboration to use Nvidia's compute resources, foundation models and expertise in efficiently deploying AI systems to bolster Abridge's work.

Nvidia's computing power will support the company's research and help it scale a multilingual clinical conversation platform across the entire U.S. healthcare system, executives said.

The company has raised $212.5 million to date.

The market for generative AI tools to help manage medical documentation has been heating up with Microsoft's Nuance being a dominant player. 

Investors are eager to back generative AI startups in the healthcare space. Ambience Healthcare recently reeled in $70 million for generative AI tools for clinicians. Nabla, an ambient AI assistant for practitioners, closed a $24 million series B round back in January.