This Seattle start-up is building an Amazon Alexa for health care

SayKara CEO Harjinder Sandhu with two employees in the office.

Karl Kaufmann, an emergency room physician at Washington’s Valley Medical Center, spends a lot of time at the end of a shift doing administrative work, like typing words and checking boxes into electronic medical records.

But recently, he’s been testing out a virtual medical scribe called SayKara.

SayKara was developed by a group of former employees from companies like speech recognition giant Nuance and Amazon. The team is based in Seattle and is launching this week after several years quietly developing the technology and securing a $2.5 million seed round from local investment firm Madrona Venture Group.

“I use SayKara in two ways, both to recap a patient visit and to incorporate the pertinent details of a patient interaction into the medical record,” said Kaufmann. Similarly to Amazon Alexa, SayKara starts working when a physician says a hot word, like “OK Kara” or taps on the app that runs on iOS devices, including iPhone and iPad.

Kaufmann was one of the first to try out SayKara, which aims to be an alternative to human scribes and existing dictation tools like Nuance’s Dragon. The goal is to accurately transcribe audio to text, parse the information to make it structured, and insert it cleanly into an electronic health record.

Voice is rapidly becoming big business in health care, as medical systems look for new ways to help doctors focus on the patient interaction, rather than the computer. Studies have shown that doctors today spend about a quarter of their time on the patient visit, with nearly half on desk work and charting in the electronic health record.

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