Bright.MD raises another $8M for "virtual physician's assistant" SmartExam

By Jeff Lagasse
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Portland, Oregon-based Bright.md has scored a fresh injection of cash in an $8 million Series B funding round aimed at improving patient care and lowering healthcare costs for clinicians. B Capital Group led the round with participation from return backer Seven Peaks Ventures.

The funding, which was announced on Monday, will go toward market development for Bright.md’s cloud-based artificial intelligence software called SmartExam, including new implementations of healthcare delivery systems, increased sales and marketing efforts, expanded client engagements, and additional hiring.

Dr. Ray Costantini, co-founder and CEO of Bright.md, said SmartExam reduces the cost of care by guiding patients through personalized questions, which in turn provides targeted information for providers they can then use to diagnose and treat.

The software’s development took about three years to complete, since Bright.md’s incorporation in June 2014.

SmartExam is built on an AI platform that uses intelligent learning algorithms. The system gets smarter over time, as it learns more about a specific patient’s health needs and conditions, and gains insights to improve the process with every patient and provider interaction.

“Building on any new software is certainly a challenging process,” said Constantini. “The most interesting part of what we’ve been able to do with our software is having built out the platform in a way that is so scalable. It lets us, in a really seamless way, add in new conditions and grow the platform to support patients and providers. That comes from a unique combination of clinical content and software development.”

The company also announced that SmartExam is available to patients in Oregon, through West Coast health system Adventist Health.

SmartExam acts as a virtual physician’s assistant – an automated medical resident, if you will – that enables primary care providers to deliver efficient remote care while cutting costs and improving outcomes.

Using the platform, patients connect to their own PCPs using a mobile, tablet or desktop device. The intelligent software dynamically interviews patients, using answers to garner more information and support providers in the care delivery process.

By gathering information, referencing evidence-based criteria and creating an action report for use by PCPs within existing EHR workflow, SmartExam lets providers achieve as much, or more, in a two-minute virtual patient visit as the 20 minutes of provider time needed for an office visit, the company said.

As a case in point, Constantini shared the story of a French teacher whose cold symptoms became progressively worse over the course of a recent school day; when the teacher called her primary care provider, she discovered that receiving care would take longer than she’d expected. So she simply used the software: Without leaving her classroom, she answered clinical questions on the platform that were then incorporated into her EHR system, and synthesized for the provider in a usable format. It produced a chart, personalized order set, relevant prescriptions, a billing file and some educational material.

“It allows clinicians to operate at the tops of their licenses,” said Constantini. “They can focus on what they do best -- diagnosis and treatment.”

Major health systems using the software have reportedly improved patient visit efficiency by 90 percent, and improving per-visit margins, enabling providers to focus on making an informed diagnosis and treatment plan, including any necessary prescriptions.