Last month we spoke with Ian Kazi Shakil, Founder/CEO of Augmedix. Since the first time we spoke a couple years back, Augmedix has grown from a nifty little startup to a full-blown heath-tech mammoth. This introvert CEO, who was forced to become extrovert to run this multimillion dollar startup, talks about where Augmedix is headed, what's next in line for this startup and more with BYTES.
Most people confuse scribing with the legacy practice of transcription. Would you elaborate a bit so that our readers understand the difference?
Most of our clients are doctors in the USA. In the past, and sometimes even today, a doctor, after talking with a patient, dictates and records what he spoke about with the patient, alongside other critical medical information. That recording goes to a back-office system, and then it is transcribed verbatim. In addition to that, doctors in the USA increasingly use the electronic medical record (EMR) to record the structured text information that he or she recorded. But a dictation or transcription does not fill the required structured dynamic forms and fields of the EMR. In the case of tech-enabled scribing with Augmedix, our trained human experts are virtually with the doctor in real-time and can obtain and fills up the structured information in the EMR. This practice saves doctors 2-3 hours of time per day, allows them to focus on patient care, and ensures that the EMR is filled out better than any other means used in the past.
What's the plan for next five years?
To be honest, Augmedix is a very mission-driven startup. We want to re-humanising the doctor-patient interaction which is sort broken in USA and many parts of the world. Another purpose of our startup is to catalyse mass employment. We want to create thousands of meaningful-purposeful jobs in countries that need these jobs. In the next five years, we are going to keep on doing these exact things- probably on a much bigger scale than today. Of course, we want to add more and more features, reach out more doctors- and we are committed to this for the long run.
AI- aren't they a huge threat in the line of business that you are doing right now?
I always get questions like these from my investors; let's address this issue head-on: Augmedix is going to dramatically harness AI, but it's going to phase in slowly, beyond the five or ten-year horizon. By 2020 we want to have at least 4,000 doctors in our service network. That would require another 4,000 or more scribes, at a minimum. In the US alone, there are 1 million doctors, and globally there are another tens of millions. Does it mean we are going to hire more than ten million scribes? That would be mean hiring half of the population of Dhaka scribing for us! So no, we are going to use AI heavily to improve the doctor to scribe ratio, for obvious reasons. And I am very excited about it!
Is your product ready to be used for doctors in Bangladesh?
Right now, the price point that we charge to get Augmedix mostly makes sense for American doctors. It would be a bit high compared to what doctors earn in Bangladesh. Maybe a decade later when the scribe to doctor ratio increases there might be a chance that it would be economically viable. In addition to that, in Bangladesh doctors don't need to legally maintain an electronic medical record. So if that was a requirement only then using Augmedix would make more sense.
Funding-wise you guys already raised a substantial amount of Seed fund and Series A from several investors. Any plan to raise more funds or are you guys revenue positive now?
Yes, we did raise funding from several sources. Historically, we've raised more than US$ 60 Million. We are planning to raise another round of investment which we are calling Series B funding. The next raise is likely to be bigger than what we've done before. Most of our investors are based in Silicon Valley but we are also open to Asia based VCs. For me, fundraising is one of the main jobs as the CEO; I've got to keep fuel in the rocket until we reach escape velocity! I spend quite a lot of time on the topic of investor relegations.