Interview With Alex Baqui

Alex Baqui

After AIMed last week, I got a chance to talk to one of the attendees, physician-entrepreneur Alex Baqui. He is a doctor and the cofounder of Valhalla Healthcare.

Baqui started his career as a physician and actually meant to stay just that, a physician, until he encountered what he calls the ‘overdocumentation crisis.’

When I was young, I always knew I what wanted to be when I grew up, and it was a doctor and nothing else. So, when I set out on my journey… I always had in my mind this picture painted in my head of a career that was fully dedicated to patient servitude. Flash forward to medical school, I find out during my clinical years that this picture I had painted my head, well, it wasn’t true. Rather, instead of being with patients, and helping people face to face, (me and my peers) would be spending more of their time on the computer doing charting than anything else. (We’d be) in the EHR, juggling pagers, doing everything that’s not patient care. So I really ended up with this feeling that ‘this isn’t what I signed up for.’
Alex Baqui

According to research Baqui cited, physicians are spending nearly half of their time writing clinical notes. Only a third of their time is spent directly face-to-face with patients. For Baqui, who — like many physicians — became a physician to help people, this was unacceptable.

For Baqui, the overdocumentation crisis isn’t merely a problem. It’s one of the largest impediments to our entire healthcare system.

From even us, as patients, we need to be aware that this is a problem that our doctors are having. It’s not that they want you to wait for a long time in the waiting room, it’s because it’s that they’re inundated with administrative tasks like writing your clinical notes. This is a problem that affects everyone, not just the doctors. Perhaps that would be something that we would like to see brought a more to the forefront of a public health debate.
Alex Baqui

So, he and cofounder John Chen decided to start a company to fix it.

What I want to do is not just be part of the problem, and instead and actually do something about it.
Alex Baqui

Their company, Valhalla Healthcare, makes a flagship product called Allevia. Allevia is an Artificial Intelligence-powered intake solution that automates clinical documentation for doctors. In simpler terms, Allevia helps patients write their own clinical notes for doctors so their doctors can spend less time documenting and more time doctoring.

This seems fair; in most industries, we are expected to fill out our own paperwork. It is we, after all, who know what’s going on with our personal details, our lives, and our bodies best. Doing it ourselves alleviates (ha ha, get it) the pressure on our doctors. It also gives us patients better care, because doctors are able to see all the information they need at a glance, instead of having to hunt and peck for it.

But, it’s more complicated than it seems. “Clinical notes are very complicated,” Baqui tells me, “and complex, and require clinicians who have gone through several years of medical school and then postgraduate training to be able to effectively create these documents as a result of the interview process on the patients.”

This is where artificial intelligence comes in. Since we patients don’t have several years of training and the doctors with the training are in a crisis, Allevia steps in to help us.

We’ve pretty much created this system that is almost at the fourth year medical school early resident level, a system that’s capable of engaging in clinical level intake. (Allevia) is not making any diagnoses… instead, we use this type of system to create or identify a list of potential highly likely conditions… as a way to find out, okay, well what are the right questions we need to ask of the potentially hundreds of thousands of symptoms options that we could go for. With that, we can precisely pick handful of information, the most relevant information very similar again, so what a clinician needs not only to make a diagnosis themselves, but also to create that subsequent documentation. 
Alex Baqui

With Allevia saving your doctor this time, she can use all her time on her most important tasks: forming theories, running tests, and explaining to you what’s going on.

This isn’t just a nice-to-have that will save you from waiting a long time in the doctor’s office. More doctor face-time will actually keep you healthier.

We can actually tie the amount of face time or the decrease in face time that doctors are spending with a patient to to worse outcomes of chronic conditions for the patients, to higher cost, to higher rates of malpractice, and burnout… it’s hard to blame future medical graduates for not going into primary care with all of these issues at hand. So this is a much larger problem that needs to be looked at as a public health crisis outside of just the general medical community.

Clients who are successfully using Allevia to increase patient face-time are seeing these effects in their practice.

Most patients completed an encounter within five to ten minutes (75%). A 30% reduction in EHR time was noted when comparing to previous visits. When compared to traditional paper intake methods, 36 (90%) patients preferred using the Allevia platform. When evaluating usability, 70% of patients described the platform as “easy to use.” Four (10%) patient notes increased at least one E&M level from the collection of expanded History of Present Illness (HPI) and Review of Systems (ROS) elements by the Allevia platform.
Preliminary Allevia Effectiveness Clinical Study

These results are based on an early version of the Allevia platform that cannot integrate with EMRs and lacks other connectivity, so one can only imagine how much time it will save when the platform has these advanced features.

For Baqui, the benefits of AI are coming slowly and incrementally, but they’re promising.

What I see in the near future is that more and more of these technologies are going to be slowly adopted to the practice of health care. Slowly we will be able to maximize some efficiencies, whether it be in documentation, whether it be in in clinical decision making, whether it be decreasing costs or risks for patients and hospitals. All in all, AI will become more of a tool just like any other tool that we use in the practice of medicine today. Just like a stethoscope and the blood pressure cuff, we eventually see that these AI machine learning tools for any aspect of clinical medicine being just another tool that we could use to help you do a better job of caring for patients.
Alex Baqui

Baqui, just like the rest of us, is looking forward to seeing what the future of Artificial Intelligence brings.