Startup using AI to solve EHR usability problems lands series A funding round

Could artificial intelligence and machine learning help solve some of the most intractable usability problems with medical record systems?

Craig Limoli, CEO and founder of startup Wellsheet, believes they can.

Investors are betting big on the technologies, and the company is gaining support from physicians and health IT leaders.

Studies have found physicians are spending a lot of time on electronic documentation. Case in point: Primary care physicians spend more than half of their workday interacting with electronic health records (EHRs), according to a study from the American Medical Association.

Doctors have complained that data entry tasks associated with EHR systems are significantly cutting into the time they can spend with patients.

Newark, New Jersey-based Wellsheet, which launched in 2015, developed a clinical workflow platform that sits on top of the EHR system and predicts what physicians need to know at the point of care.

The company leverages AI and machine learning and uses the Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) application programming interface (API) standards to pull up the most relevant content for physicians in a view that is contextualized and prioritized for their needs, according to the company.

RELATED: Primary care doctors spend more than 50% of workday on EHR tasks, AMA study finds

The company raised $3.8 million in a series A funding round led by SpringTide Investments, with BioAdvance and Newark Venture Partners also participating.

Wellsheet previously raised $2.2 million from angels and seed-stage funds, including Real Life Innovations. The company has raised $6 million to date.

The company plans to use the funding to expand its engineering and go-to-market teams as well as to extend the Wellsheet platform to enable cross-platform offerings and support health systems as they transition to new care models, the company said.

"We support physicians by providing a more user-friendly view of the information in the EHRs, combined with other sources, and surface the content most relevant for providers to know about a particular patient," Limoli told Fierce Healthcare.

The company's app integrates with two of the largest EHR vendors, Cerner and Epic.

EHR systems typically treat every doctor and patient the same way, and each piece of information is buried deep under a different tab.

Wellsheet's technology understands the context of the patient visit, anticipates the information a provider needs and presents it in a single screen the way the doctor wants to view it. This helps the physician efficiently assess the patient and supports clinical decision-making, the company said.

Limoli said he launched Wellsheet because he believes clinicians deserve better software. He had previously worked as a senior strategy consultant at IBM Watson Health.

"I had worked closely with front-line physicians and I gained an appreciation for their frustration with current technologies. It was unprecedented for me—the severity of the challenges, the frustration that I was seeing as doctors were having to deal with inefficiencies in the EHR systems," he said.

RELATED: Burnout, time spent on EHRs top challenges for independent practice leaders

Wellsheet's staff includes in-house physicians and engineers with clinical experience who helped design the technology to reduce a physician’s time in the EHR, lessening physician burnout and improving the quality of patient care.

Hospitals that use Wellsheet have reported a 40% reduction in physician time spent using the EHR system, an 89% reduction in caseload management time and 92% faster integration and deployment time, according to the company.

The use of FHIR APIs enables an accelerated implementation and deployment timeline, Limoli said. Clinicians also can use the platform on any web browser or devices, such as a tablet or smartphone.

Wellsheet currently works with 40 hospitals. Concord Hospital in New Hampshire is using the company's technology to track every potential coronavirus patient from admission through discharge at its hospital.

The company has attracted several top healthcare leaders to its advisory board, including: John Glaser, M.D., former CIO of Partners Health, CEO of Siemens Healthcare and senior vice president of Cerner; and Christine Cassel, M.D., of the University of California, San Francisco and Kaiser as well as former president and CEO of the American Board of Internal Medicine and the National Quality Forum.

RELATED: As coronavirus strikes, crucial data in electronic health records hard to harvest

In a recent Harvard Business Review article, Glaser wrote that EHRs still don't rise to the information challenges clinicians face every day, let alone those posed by COVID-19.

Clinicians are facing user interface and usability issues, and EHRs lack contextual awareness, Glaser said. "It's both a problem of keystrokes and cognitive load" for clinicians, he told Fierce Healthcare.

An overhaul of the EHR is long overdue, Glaser said, noting that medical record systems need to transition from being transaction-oriented to intelligence-oriented.

Glaser said he jumped on board at the startup because Wellsheet offers a new architectural model that provides a layer of technology and intelligence that sits on top of the EHR and solves specific problems for clinicians.

"It offers a level of flexibility to tailor what you see and the workflow is more customized," Glaser said. "The technology also learns as it goes along and provides a useful display of data about the patient who is in front of me."

Technology improvements alone won't solve the issue of physician burnout, he said. There needs to be better clinician training for using EHRs, he said. The transition to value-based care models also will help, he said, as it provides doctors with financial incentives to perform time-consuming documentation with a focus on patient outcomes rather than the volume of services.