Jan 4, 2024 - Health

Scoop: AI prescription assistant nabs backing from Mayo Clinic, Eli Lilly

Animated illustration of a stethoscope with an Alexa at the end, replacing the diaphragm piece

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

A startup that created a voice-based AI app to manage insulin and other prescriptions is launching Thursday with backing from powerhouses including Mayo Clinic and Eli Lilly.

Driving the news: Palo Alto, California-based UpDoc is among a growing list of companies jumping into the AI-enabled device space. Company officials told Axios first they plan to launch the "remote patient intervention" tool later this year at UCSF Health and Stanford.

The details: Started by Stanford Medicine physicians Sharif Vakili and Ashwin Nayak, UpDoc will pair an AI assistant and a smartphone app to interact with patients in their homes.

  • The idea is to not only monitor patients with chronic conditions like diabetes between office visits but to intervene when conditions dictate.
  • "In the same way that a patient would talk to their doctor to get a medication prescribed or medication dose adjusted or a blood test ordered or a lab test ordered, they now do that and talk to UpDoc," CEO Sharif Vakili told Axios.

By the numbers: In a study of 32 patients with Type 2 diabetes published in the JAMA Network Open last month, the UpDoc founders reported that 81% of patients who used the AI tool maintained desired blood glucose levels after eight weeks, compared with 25% of Stanford patients who were treated without the tool.

  • The goal is to improve chronic care for aging and underserved populations amid provider shortages.
  • Vakili is careful to point out that the AI is "clinician directed," meaning it follows a preset plan created by the doctors and pharmacists. And, he said: "As soon as the patient goes in any gray area, the humans are back into the loop."

The intrigue: Yes, the name borrows Bugs Bunny's famous catchphrase "What's up, doc?"

  • The wake word to activate the product is "Hey, UpDoc." But, Vakili said: "For the homepage, if you're lost, you know what to do. You say: 'What's up, Doc?'"

The company's strategic funding round was led by venture capital firm Polaris Partners, with backing from Oxeon Partners, Eli Lilly and Mayo. Microsoft and Google are also partners.

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