UPMC-backed telehealth startup Abridge helps patients capture details of virtual visits

As telehealth surges and patients get used to the new normal of remote consults, its new machine learning technology can give them tailored after-visit summaries.
By Mike Miliard
03:25 PM

UPMC has been working with Pittsburgh-based Abridge, a telehealth-focused startup that uses natural language processing to create after-visit summaries – enabling patients to revisit their physicians' instructions after remote consults.

WHY IT MATTERS
The goal, according to UPMC, which is an Abridge investor, is to offer patients a more complete and understandable summary of the virtual visit – helping them understand diagnoses, clinician notes and suggestions for next steps in their care.

Abridge's technology records telehealth visits and then applies clinical NLP to spotlight important notes to help ensure patients understand relevant details from the encounter.

For some telephone visits, Abridge enables calls from physicians to their patients through a specified phone number, eliminating the need for special downloads or integrations. For in-person or video appointments, patients access the Abridge app on their smartphones or tablets to record the appointment.

Medically relevant sections are automatically transcribed by Abridge for review, supplemented with additional information. Once that's done, patients receive a text message showing how to access their summary via the Abridge app.

UPMC clinicians, having gained experience with Abridge during the telehealth upsurge caused by COVID-19, hope soon to be able to  import notes from remote visits into patients' electronic health records.

Abridge was cofounded by Dr. Shiv Rao, a UPMC cardiologist, and Sandeep Konam and Florian Metze of Carnegie Mellon University.

In a statement, Rao said the startup was inspired both by his own family experience with a rare disease and his experiences as a physician.

"When you're stressed and anxious – as many of us are during the coronavirus pandemic – it's easy to forget the many small details that are crucial to maintaining our health and well-being," he explained. "We hope that Abridge will help people stay on top of their health, from home to hospital."

THE LARGER TREND
Like most hospitals and health systems, UPMC has shifted much of its care delivery to telehealth and remote consults since the beginning of the pandemic. Officials note that its virtual visits are up 3,700% – from perhaps 250 encounters per day in March to as many as 9,500 per day by the end of April.

"Living through this crisis, we understood we needed a new way to communicate with our patients," said Dr. Suresh Mulukutla, another UPMC cardiologist and informaticist in a statement. "Abridge allows us a unique mechanism to stay connected with patients even beyond the actual visit."

Abridge emerged from the Pittsburgh Health Data Alliance – a collaboration between UPMC, Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh that was established in 2015 to drive advances in AI, analytics and patient-centered care models.

UPMC and the startups and spinoffs it supports have continued to focus on telehealth and remote monitoring in the years since.

ON THE RECORD
"We've always prided ourselves on adopting innovative ways to provide patient-centered care – even in times of crisis," said Tami Minnier, UPMC Chief Quality Officer, in a statement. "Abridge helps us enhance the patient experience while also increasing health literacy and patient outcomes."

Twitter: @MikeMiliardHITN
Email the writer: mike.miliard@himssmedia.com

Healthcare IT News is a publication of HIMSS Media