Surge in telehealth shows AI’s potential for keeping patients on track

After seeing telehealth visits skyrocket 3,700% in April over March—most of them COVID-related—the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center is touting its use of AI to help patients retain and apply doctors’ guidance offered during virtual visits.

The 40-hospital health system is using technology developed by Abridge, a local AI startup of which a UPMC cardiologist is a co-founder and in which UPMC is an early investor.

The software works by recording calls, automatically transcribing relevant spoken segments and sending summaries to patients via an app, according to a UPMC announcement.

The UPMC cardiologist and company co-founder, Shiv Rao, MD, says the idea partly grew out of his own family’s experience with a rare disease.

“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,” Rao says in the announcement.

Hopes are high, he suggests, that the technology “will help people stay on top of their health, from home to hospital.”

UPMC’s big telemed bounce mirrors reports from other parts of the country. For example, Blue Cross Blue Shield is reporting more than 1 million telehealth claims in Massachusetts in the nine weeks since the Bay State BCBS affiliate started offering the option with no out-of-pocket costs during the COVID-19 crisis.