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Empowering Healthcare Through Innovation: A Q&A with Tobi Olatunji, CEO of Intron Health

By Henry Duah

Intron Health is a trailblazing healthtech startup founded by Tobi Olatunji and Olakunle Asekun in 2020. Specialising in electronic medical records (EMR) management, Intron Health is revolutionising healthcare documentation in Africa through cutting-edge speech-to-text technology tailored for nearly 300 African accents. By seamlessly integrating its proprietary speech recognition platform into EMR systems, Intron Health streamlines the cumbersome manual data entry process, ensuring accurate and efficient transcription of medical notes. The platform’s innovative solutions address the specific linguistic nuances prevalent in diverse African accents, empowering healthcare professionals to deliver high-quality care while maximising productivity. 

With a commitment to user-centric design, robust security measures, and scalability, Intron Health is leading the digitisation of healthcare documentation across the continent, ultimately improving patient care and operational efficiency in medical facilities with Machine Learning and AI.

We recently had the privilege of asking Tobi Olatunji, the Founder and CEO of Intron Health, questions about their innovation and startup. Tobi has been instrumental in driving Intron Health’s success and growth. In this exclusive Q&A, Tobi shares insights into Intron Health’s innovation and vision for the future of digitised healthcare in Africa. Join us as we delve into the inspiring story of Intron Health and its mission to transform healthcare through technology.

Can you elaborate on the user experience design of the Transcribe App and the Electronic Medical Record (EMR) App, highlighting specific features that make them intuitive and easy for healthcare professionals to adopt?

The Transcribe App is tailored for simplicity and designed at the level of a WhatsApp user, with only two buttons: record/stop and copy/clear- requiring minimal tech literacy. It supports nearly 300 African accents and seamlessly integrates into the Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) through a widget. Its user-friendly approach involves no new hardware or software installation, effortlessly working with existing devices. Since most humans talk 3x faster than they write and African clinicians talk 5x faster than they type on the keyboard, the app delivers practical productivity gains.

In the realm of EMR, the design prioritises user efficiency, minimising clicks for various tasks like investigations, clinical notes, and appointments. Evidently crafted by clinicians, the app streamlines workflows, exemplified by the rapid orders feature, enabling a single-click initiation of multiple patient services, saving over 90% of the time required to process orders. Intuitive notifications keep users informed about pending tasks and ready results, significantly reducing waiting times and enhancing the overall user experience for healthcare professionals.

Intron Health supports over 200 African accents. How does the technology ensure accurate transcription across such a diverse linguistic landscape, and what efforts have been made to include less common dialects or accents?

Our vision was pan-African from day one, prioritising diversity and inclusion. We source high-quality speech data from multiple countries, with over 11,000 contributors across 29 countries. By developing advanced algorithms, Intron Health trains its models to excel in transcribing minority accents, ensuring accuracy across a diverse linguistic landscape. Furthermore, the dedicated research team meticulously evaluates and profiles our models on individual accents, helping us identify areas for improvement, especially on the less common dialects or accents.

We found that Intron can be deployed offline. Could you provide more details on how the speech-to-text technology functions offline and what advantages this offers in healthcare settings, especially those with limited internet access?

This functionality is made possible through advanced algorithms and models trained in the cloud but deployed locally on-prem. These models are optimised to recognise speech patterns, phonetic variations, and linguistic nuances, allowing for accurate transcription without internet connectivity.  Intron’s speech-to-text technology is designed to function seamlessly offline, providing advantages such as enhanced accessibility, data privacy, and reliability for healthcare settings, particularly those with limited internet access. 

Given the sensitive nature of medical records, what security measures does Intron Health have in place to ensure the confidentiality and integrity of patient data in both the Transcribe App and the EMR App?

Transcribe and EMR Apps are designed with multiple layers of protection. We implement robust encryption protocols to safeguard data in transit and at rest. Our apps employ stringent role-based access control, ensuring only authorised users can access sensitive information. 

Additionally, we’ve implemented secure authentication methods and detailed audit trails to enhance accountability. Also, regular data backups are conducted to maintain data integrity, while compliance with regulations like HIPAA and GDPR ensures legal adherence and reinforces patient confidentiality and integrity within our applications.

How does Intron Health measure the impact of its speech-to-text technology on clinician productivity, and can you share any insights or case studies demonstrating the efficiency gains experienced by healthcare professionals?

We employ various metrics to measure the impact of its speech-to-text technology on clinician productivity. We track metrics such as documentation time, turnaround time and patient wait time. Additionally, we gather feedback from healthcare professionals to understand their experience and identify areas for improvement. One notable case study involved West Africa’s largest Hospital, where our speech-to-text technology deployed in the Radiology Department reduced reporting turnaround time from over 48 hours to 20 minutes, demonstrating practical operational gain with far-reaching impact on patient and provider experience.

 

The idea of involving clinicians in contributing to developing speech-to-text technology is intriguing. How does Intron Health engage clinicians in this process, and what benefits does this bring to the broader healthcare community?

Our clinician leadership grants us unprecedented access to global and African clinician communities, especially those eager to contribute to technology development. Clinician involvement helps to ensure technology meets their needs and aligns with clinician workflows. This cooperative approach increases efficiency and improves communication for the benefit of the larger healthcare community while encouraging shared ownership and quicker adoption.

Interoperability is crucial in healthcare. How does the Intron EMR App integrate with existing healthcare systems, and what standards or protocols does it follow to ensure seamless data exchange?

The Intron EMR App prioritises seamless integration with existing healthcare systems through versatile data export capabilities. It supports multiple export formats, including HL-7/FHIR. Additionally, the app adheres to international standards such as LOINC, ICD, and CPT. It keeps disease classification current with ICD-11, enhancing interoperability and promoting effective collaboration within the healthcare ecosystem.

Could you elaborate on the features of the Telecare component, specifically how it facilitates virtual appointments, supports electronic payments, and enhances the overall patient-doctor interaction?

The Telecare component of our system offers several key features to enhance patient care. Firstly, it facilitates virtual appointments by providing a secure platform for text, voice, and video consultations, allowing patients to connect with their healthcare providers remotely. Additionally, it supports electronic payments, enabling patients to settle their bills conveniently online before or after consultations. The platform enhances patient-doctor interaction by providing real-time communication, file sharing, and remote monitoring tools, ensuring continuous care and support.

Can you provide insights into any upcoming features, advancements, or projects that Intron Health is currently working on to enhance its health-tech offerings further?

We’re working on super cool initiatives within and outside healthcare through multiple collaborations. While we cannot share full details now, many of these initiatives involve leveraging LLMs to provide practical value to clinicians and applying voice technologies to other high-value use cases within and outside healthcare.

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