Artificial intelligence continues to be a major force in the world of healthcare, and in one of the latest developments, a Copenhagen startup called Corti has raised $60 million to expand its contribution to the field: an AI assistant designed to support healthcare clinicians with patient assessments in real time.
Prosus Ventures and Atomico are leading the Series B investment, with previous backers Eurazeo, EIFO, and Chr. Augustinus Fabrikker also participating. The company is not disclosing anything about its valuation, but it has been on a roll in terms of customers and usage.
When it last raised money, a Series A of $27 million almost exactly two years ago 2021, it was assisting in 15 million consultations annually. Now it says that it works with 100 million patients a year, where it is getting used 150,000 times a day, works out to almost 55 consultations annually across Europe and the U.S. It claims that its tools can help healthcare workers be up to 40% more accurate in “outcome-predictions” and 90% faster in their administrative tasks.
With a boost in attention and usage especially in the years after the Covid-19 pandemic emerged, its customers have included emergency services in Seattle, Boston, and Sweden, as well as a number of hospitals and other medical services.
Corti describes its service as an “AI co-pilot” for healthcare, with its assistant covering a number of areas where that might apply: triaging during a patient interaction, documenting that whole interaction including with the administrative coding that an institution might be using, providing analysis of that interaction to give steers on decisions, sometimes giving “second opinions” that might be contrary to what the clinician thinks, and providing notes both in real time and after a meeting to identify areas of improvement and to train clinicians.
That list underscores just how much doctors, nurses and others are expected to be doing all the time, and maybe it’s a good thing that Corti is not the only one pursuing that model, and that there are multiple approaches being taken to do so.
Nabla, a startup out of Paris led by serial AI entrepreneur and researcher Alex LeBrun, earlier this year launched an AI “copilot” (no hyphen!), but its approach so far has been to built its tools on top of some of the bigger models that are already out in the world: specifically, in the spring it launched a copilot built on GPT-3 from OpenAI, with medical experts on staff at the startup to contribute to the development.
Corti’s approach — as laid out by CTO Lars Maaløe who co-founded the company with CEO Andreas Cleve (and a third co-founder, Michael Boesen, who is no longer with the company) — is that it has built its own models and corresponding components, and has explicitly not brought on medical experts in house as part of that. (Collectively, the three have past experience both in building productivity tools for medical professionals, as well as extensive experience in AI research and development.)
“That’s been one of the ideas from the get go,” he said in an interview. “The most responsible way is not to have a physician on your payroll because that could create bias in the system.” Instead, he continued, the company built its platform, and while it slowly started to pick up customers to “teach” the AI, it also brought in numerous researchers to poke it and also run their work using it, using that also to build out the platform’s intelligence. Helpfully (and luckily), Maaløe said that this has served its purpose in improving Corti’s responsiveness and functionality.
That doesn’t mean that Corti has always been met with open arms over the years.
Corti’s platform was launched around 2018, well before all the buzz and hype of ChatGPT, and in that time Maaløe says that customer meetings “have changed radically”. At the beginning, there was a lot of pushback about job replacement, and of course concern that the co-pilot was giving accurate steers to its users and patients.
Nowadays, he said, “ChatGPT has gotten people to realise that we could use AI for a lot of things. Our meetings have become much easier.” All the same, he talked of how the best interactions these days are those where AI isn’t even discussed at all.
“We want to make the AI term boring,” he said.
That points, of course, to the darker view that some in medicine take of AI. Earlier this year, a group of doctors and public health experts joined the chorus of those warning of how AI poses an existential threat to humanity, specifically because of over-reliance on data and analysis that might not be nearly as accurate as some might assume, and might even be misleadingly dangerous.
But in the world of medicine, that’s not such a bad thing: that kind of conflict of opinion has been part and parcel of how it has always developed and synthesized new ideas.
“The healthcare industry faces significant administrative burdens globally, leading to extensive practitioner burnout,” Sandeep Bakshi, Head of European Investments at Prosus Ventures said in a statement. “Corti and its product suite provide system-wide efficiency improvements and enhancement of care provider abilities. We’re confident in its leading technology, unique market offering, and experienced founding team, and believe Corti is well-positioned to fundamentally redefine both the patient and healthcare experiences.”
“Andreas and Lars are visionary founders who have assembled an extraordinary team at Corti. There are few places where the need for transformational change is greater or more urgent than in global healthcare, as clinicians and providers face a trifecta of rising administrative costs, a demographic transition, and an explosion of chronic illness. Corti simultaneously improves the physician’s efficiency and job satisfaction with real-time documentation automation, greater visibility into care quality, and also optimizes revenue and reduces costs,” added Atomico Partner Laura Connell. “By augmenting overburdened physicians and healthcare providers with AI, Corti paves the way for more personalized, preventative and proactive medicine.”