Outbound AI founders, clockwise from top left: Stead Burwell, Jonathan Wiggs, Kshitij Moghe and Justin Ith. (Outbound AI Photos)

Outbound AI announced Wednesday $16 million in fresh funding to advance the rollout of its artificial intelligence tools that help healthcare teams interact with insurance companies and automate administrative work during the claims process.

The Seattle startup, spun out of Madrona Venture Labs in 2021, aims to improve the “human experience” for healthcare workers. The company recently launched its GPT-powered AI agent to automate elements of the medical billing process, including updates to claim status, benefits verification, prior authorizations, and denials.

The company’s tools can communicate with human representatives, take notes, generate summaries for each call and transaction, and sense when the system reaches its limitations, prompting a worker to step in and take over the interaction.

Founder and CEO Stead Burwell said the new funding and product enhancements come as the US and other countries are bracing for a “dramatic increase” in patient volumes. He said factors such as the greying of America, expanding middle class, and nursing shortage will contribute to the strain on healthcare workforces.

“This is why we have such a sense of urgency to bring these technologies to market,” Burwell told GeekWire.

The startup said its tools are “four to five times faster” than humans and more cost-effective. They operate continuously, scaling as needed to manage any volume, letting workers offload rote tasks to focus on other work. Outbound said the AI is HIPAA compliant and built on Microsoft Azure.

Outbound declined to reveal its exact client count, but said that it acquired 15 new customers within the past four months. The startup targets small- and medium-sized healthcare groups, such as independent physician practices and the medical billing companies that support them. It generates revenue through a consumption-based pricing model, charging users based on the monthly usage in minutes of its products.

The latest round was co-led by Madrona Venture Group and SpringRock Ventures. Other backers include Epic Ventures, Ascend, Pack Ventures, Locke Capital, Tacoma Venture Fund and KCRise Fund. Outbound raised $7 million shortly after its founding in March 2021.

There are a growing number of companies using AI to ease administrative burdens in healthcare:

  • MajorBoost, a spinout from Seattle’s Allen Institute for AI (AI2), landed $350,000 in pre-seed funding in 2021 to develop a product to ease payer-provider communication.
  • Birch AI, another AI2 spinout, targets call center work in healthcare, insurance and banking.
  • Providence-linked Advata has a focus on healthcare revenue cycle management.
  • Seattle-based Cascade Health raised $2 million last month for its healthcare transparency chatbot tool.

“Our approach brings more scalability and efficiency,” Burwell said of competition. “We’re able to deliver more extensive information relevant to a task, which allows our ML models to make better conclusions and recommendations on behalf of staff and supervisors.”

Burwell is joined by three other co-founders: Justin Ith, a former product lead at Madrona Venture Labs; Saykara veteran Kshitij Moghe; and chief technology officer Jonathan Wiggs, who helped build the speech models for Apple’s Siri while at Nuance, and most recently was vice president of engineering and architecture at tax software giant Avalara.

Outbound has about 40 employees, up from 27 in September. The company said it expects to keep hiring if it continues to hit on its milestones.

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