San Francisco-based startup Augmedix has developed a system based on Google Glass that enables doctors to focus entirely on their patients while an assistant manages the administrative side remotely.

Google Glass helps restore the personal touch to doctor-patient relations

Augmedix was founded early in 2012 with a mission to re-humanise the doctor-patient relationship, which has suffered to a certain extent from the advent of new information and communication technologies. ‟Sometimes a doctor has to spend more time on the computer than attending to the patient,” points out Alex Tam, the company’s young Head of Design, with whom L’Atelier met up at a Learning Expedition on connected health which took place in San Francisco in June. ‟This is an unpleasant experience for the patient, and also for the doctor, who originally got into this field in order to help people, not because s/he wanted to be stuck in front of a screen,” Tam underlined. To address this problem Augmedix has developed a solution designed to provide remote assistance to doctors. A Google Glass headset, an assistant available in real time, and the physician is ready to go. The headset is equipped with a microphone, camera and a small screen so the physician can communicate with the assistant, who follows the consultation through the doctor’s eyes and can display relevant information – such as a patient record showing age, pulse and temperature history – on the screen. The assistant also takes care of entering all information relating to the consultation, diagnosis, treatment, etc. in the patient’s electronic health record. ‟The doctor can therefore focus all his/her energy on the patient, while the assistant deals with the records that have to be filled in. More attention is paid to the patient and there’ll be more information in the file, which adds up to greater efficiency,” explained Tam.

Augmedix enables the doctor to focus all his attention on the patient

A tailored service to healthcare providers

Healthcare practitioners pay a monthly subscription for Augmedix to provide and maintain the system, e.g. replacing faulty glasses. The subscription also covers Augmedix onsite visits to ensure the system is working properly, and the company will for example install new WiFi hubs in a hospital if required. The Augmedix service is entirely tailored to the customer. Each doctor is allocated a minimum of two assistants, who are trained to work with him/her and will adapt their working day to suit the doctor’s work schedule. Alex Tam claims that the Augmedix service enables doctors to save two hours’ working time every day. An alumnus of healthcare sector incubator Rock Health, the startup is now working in twelve US states and is planning to expand to the rest of the country and then launch abroad.

The HITECH Act has encouraged the US healthcare system to adopt new technologies

Making digital a boon, not a burden

‟One of the reasons for our company’s success is the current widespread adoption of electronic records by healthcare professionals,” explains Tam. At the root of this major change is the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, successfully steered through Congress by the Obama administration in 2009. The purpose of the Act is to promote and expand the adoption of new information technologies in the health sector. Since the Act came into force a large number of doctors and hospitals have switched to managing their files online, using software programmes such as those developed by US health software company Epic Systems. These programmes are convenient and lead to time and cost savings, but some doctors still find them difficult to handle. Physicians who are less familiar with the new ICTs often need some time to get up to speed with the new systems. Augmedix enables medical practitioners to enjoy the advantages of computerisation without having to devote time to it upfront. So we may conclude that a medical sector in which Google Glass, other connected objects, virtual reality and crowdfunding have all made their appearance is now definitely losing its reluctance to adopt innovations.

By Guillaume Renouard