Health-focused AI companies are continuing to generate venture capital funding as the healthcare industry works to automate its myriad of time-consuming administrative processes. This week, Hyro — a New York-based startup that is building a conversational AI platform for providers — closed a $20 million Series B funding round.
The round, led by Macquarie Capitalbrings the company’s total funding to date to $35 million. Other investors that participated in the Series B round include Liberty Mutual Strategic Ventures, Black Opal Ventures, K20, Hanaco Ventures, Hope Ventures and Mindset Ventures.
Hyro’s name is inspired by ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics, one of the oldest recorded full writing systems known to humankind, CEO Israel Krush said in a recent interview.
“Fast forward to 2023 — we’re breaking down those same types of barriers for artificial intelligence to properly understand natural language, which can be as beautifully complex as hieroglyphics. At Hyro, we look at language across the board holistically. We’re able to model complex data and turn it into clean dialogue, simplifying the interaction for all parties, which are patients and their healthcare providers,” he explained.
When providers can converse more easily with their patients, they can help more people and collect actionable patient journey insights along the way, Krush declared.
When Krush founded Hyro in 2018 with Rom Cohen, the startup’s CIO, they shared the belief that natural language interfaces will be the dominant interface when it comes to human-computer interaction.
“Today, that has become pretty obvious given the recent advancements in LLMs,” Krush pointed out.
The barriers to deploying and maintaining quality conversational AI assistants are still pretty high for providers. Integrating this technology requires expertise, time, capital and access to real-time and ever-changing custom data. However, healthcare is an industry that could definitely benefit from these AI assistants — the patient journey is usually ripe with obstacles and often lacks direct, accessible information, Krush said.
Hyro seeks to make it easier for providers to have AI-powered conversations with their patients. The company’s platform enables these conversations, which can take place though providers’ websites, apps and call centers. Healthcare organizations can also use Hyro’s platform to have conversations with patients via text message.
“Hyro’s platform is mostly plug-and-play and doesn’t require effort and resources from the customer,” Krush declared.
The platform taps into an organization’s existing data sources — such as its websites, databases and electronic health record — and scrapes them to construct a knowledge graph, Krush explained. When a patient asks a question, Hyro’s platform uses its natural language understanding engine to parse the sentence and understand its linguistic composition. That way, the AI assistant can retrieve the relevant information from the knowledge graph.
Some of the assistant’s top use cases are appointment management (which involves scheduling, verifying, canceling and rescheduling), prescription status updates and refills, assistance with physician and clinic search and patient registration, Krush shared.
Hyro can save hospitals a lot of time by taking over these tasks. For example, one of its customers, Baptist Healthreceives 1,400 calls per month for username recovery and password resets alone, Krush pointed out.
Hyro’s platform also aggregates all conversations into an analytics layer that identifies knowledge gaps — such as topics that patients are asking about but aren’t mentioned in the data that’s been scraped together. In doing so, the startup is creating a feedback loop to improve the assistant and give crucial insights to the organization, Krush said.
The startup mainly sells its platform to providers. Some of its customers include Intermountain Healthcare, Mercy Health, Novant Health, Hackensack Meridian Health, Weill Cornell Medicine and Hospital for Special Surgery. Hyro also recently expanded its scope and is beginning to sell its product in the payer and pharmaceutical spaces, Krush explained.
He said that Nuancewhich Microsoft acquired last year for nearly $20 billion, is Hyro’s chief competitor. The startup’s main advantage over Nuance is its “ease and speed of both deployment and maintenance, which significantly impact total cost of ownership and ROI,” Krush argued.
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