New App Helps Patients Recall The Details Of Doctor Visits

Jun 15, 2020

When faced with a new medical diagnosis, it can be difficult for some people to retain important information about managing symptoms, treatment options and prescription regimens. 

An app developed by a UPMC cardiologist and artificial intelligence researchers from Carnegie Mellon University aims to help patients remember what happened during a doctor's appointment, particularly when faced with upsetting news about their health status.

“If you hear the word ‘cancer,’ what are you going to hear after that?” said Dr. Shiv Rao, co-founder of Abridge.

The app creates an encrypted transcription of the appointment that patients and their medical providers can review. Rao said the app improves upon an audio recorder by providing a transcript with key phrases highlighted, next steps flagged and medical terminology defined. Patients can click links to read further about procedures and diagnoses.

Patients can also share the Abridge summary with their loved ones to keep everyone up to speed on a health care plan. Rao said he was inspired, in part, by a patient who worried when her husband couldn’t make one of her appointments.

“She had a 10-year history of breast cancer and she was about to start chemotherapy that could affect her heart, and she was super nervous,” he said. The patient told Rao that for the last 10 years, her husband had been taking notes for her because she couldn’t remember everything that was said to her at an appointment.

The patient took her husband’s notes and researched what certain terms meant before writing out her own summaries in words she could understand. Abridge works similarly, but with far less effort on the patient's part.

Trained machine learning models handle the transcription, according to Rao. The models parse through the conversations to pull out key phrases and information to highlight for patients. Abridge software engineers don’t review transcriptions unless a patient asks them for help, according to Rao.

Last month, UPMC announced a partnership with Abridge for telehealth visits. Physicians dial an Abridge conference line before connecting with a patient and, if everyone consents to the recording, an Abridge summary will be provided.

Patients at other health systems can use Abridge too, according to Rao. Anyone can download the app and record their visits, with their physician's consent.

The app can also serve as a resource for patients whose first language isn’t English. Currently the app offers summaries for English and Spanish speakers, but Rao said the company is exploring expansion into other languages.