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How This Google Glass Startup Is Saving Doctors Time

How This Google Glass Startup Is Saving Doctors Time
Image credit: Gabriela Hasbun
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This story appears in the December 2014 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

After meeting at Stanford University’s biodesign program, Ian Shakil and Pelu Tran began tossing around concepts for a health-care startup. In the summer of 2012, after trying Google Glass for the first time, an idea came into focus: What if they created a service for doctors—powered by the device—to record, store and retrieve patient health records? And what if that service could vastly reduce the avalanche of data entry doctors face each day?

The pair quickly dove into engineering; Shakil left his marketing and business-development job, and Tran—then a fourth-year med student—put his studies on hold. The result: Augmedix, a Google Glass platform that automatically populates a patient’s electronic health records based on conversations during appointments with physicians. Additionally, physicians using the service can verbally request details from a patient’s records, such as cholesterol count or blood pressure, and the information immediately pops up in the smart specs. 

Billed as “the first Google Glass startup,” Augmedix debuted in summer 2013 at trials in San Francisco and rural Texas. Today dozens of doctors in 12 medical facilities across five states use the product, including Dignity Health and two other national health-care networks. Shakil, Augmedix’s CEO, predicts that nearly a thousand MDs will be using the platform by the end of 2015. 

“We save doctors a third of their day,” Shakil says. “Our doctors talk about Augmedix the way people talked about the iPhone when it first came out.” Patients are thrilled, too, he says, because doctors—now liberated from time-consuming documentation—can devote more time and attention to them. 

Investors have been equally impressed. In May the San Francisco upstart closed a $7.3 million financing round led by Silicon Valley venture capital firms DCM and Emergence Capital Partners. 

Kevin Spain, general partner at Emergence Capital, who sits on Augmedix’s board, believes technology and cloud services will help overhaul the country’s costly, bloated health-care system. 

“Every doctor you talk to, when you ask them what their biggest problem is, it’s data entry,” says Spain, who has also invested in health-care IT startups Doximity and Welltok. “They’re spending anywhere between 25 and 50 percent of their time entering data into the computer every single day. I really believe that means that patients receive worse care.”

Doctors using Augmedix pay a monthly subscription fee, which covers the cost of the glasses, software and technical support. Pricing varies depending on medical specialty, patient volume and schedule, says Shakil, who declined to give specifics. 

Augmedix, which has 50-plus employees, is straining to keep up with demand. Shakil is using much of the capital raised to bring in new hires to increase distribution and improve the service, focusing on salespeople, product managers and engineers and back-end developers. 

New features are in the works, too.An alert system called Guidance prompts doctors to perform tasks that may be overlooked during patient visits (for example, ordering lab work) or reminds them that a patient has been in the waiting room for a certain period of time. A separate feature lets doctors communicate with one another directly by video in Google Glass; say, if they need an out-of-state specialist to weigh in on a diagnosis or treatment plan. Partnerships with other tech companies—such as Thalmic Labs, creator of the Myo armband, a device that detects subtle movements of the hand and fingers—further extend Augmedix’s capabilities.

“We’re not just talking about saving time or humanizing the doctor-patient interaction,” Shakil says of Augmedix’s prospects. “What we’re really talking about is improving the quality of care immeasurably.” 

Edition: December 2016

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