Microsoft’s Nuance acquisition could bring AI to more doctors

On Tuesday, Microsoft introduced it had acquired Nuance Communications for $16 billion. Nuance is a pioneer within the subject of superior medical transcription, however the know-how remains to be younger. The battle to cut back the executive burden for doctors utilizing synthetic intelligence is intensifying, and the acquisition could place Microsoft effectively to compete towards different tech giants as they jostle for dominance inside healthcare.

Nuance has a protracted historical past as a medical transcription service and has invested closely in voice recognition know-how. The hope is that its know-how could doubtlessly cut back the variety of hours that doctors spend inputting medical info into sufferers’ digital well being data (EHR). Physicians spend 16 minutes per affected person inputting info into their EHR, according to a much-cited study last year. How a lot of that’s time effectively spent is one other query fully. That’s why Nuance is making an attempt to cut back the hours doctors spend toiling within the EHR.

The 28-year outdated firm is a well-established participant within the well being trade. Some 77% of U.S. hospitals and roughly half of all doctors within the nation use Nuance’s know-how. Nonetheless, it’s very early days for AI medical assistant software program usually.


A lot of the distributors I’ve seen . . . are nonetheless utilizing people within the loops for high quality checking and to cut back the quantity of enhancing that wants to be executed by the supplier on the time of sign-off,” says Dr. Steven Lin, affiliate professor of medication at Stanford College who researches medical synthetic intelligence. “If I’ve to select between a well-trained human scribe and one among these AI-powered options, I might in all probability nonetheless decide and favor a well-trained human scribe who is aware of my type and who has the power to arrange sophisticated affected person histories.”

Different doctors and well being programs are as a substitute selecting technological options from corporations like Nuance. LifeBridge Well being, a Maryland-based well being system that employs some 2,700 physicians, adopted voice-to-text software program for its medical employees two years in the past. Tressa Springmann, the group’s chief innovation officer, says that 90% of the time, well being staff at LifeBridge are selecting to use voice-to-text software program to enter medical notes into the EHR slightly than a medical scribe. “They might by no means have adopted voice recognition [technology] if it hadn’t been nearly as good,” she says whereas acknowledging the software program shouldn’t be correct 100% of the time.

Lin says that rendering spoken phrase into textual content isn’t what goes to cut back time spent in entrance of the EHR. To ensure that AI to actually help doctors, it could want to give you the option to pay attention to a health care provider’s dialog with a affected person, pull out related info in actual time, and put it within the applicable place within the EHR. He says the know-how is simply not there but.

“Oftentimes the dialog jumps round and it’s very tough for a pc to perceive the place to put info within the observe, particularly when the historical past is nonlinear, multilayered, and complicated,” Lin explains. “It’s tough proper now to get the extent of accuracy, group, readability, and accessibility that I might need as a clinician utilizing a purely AI-powered device.”

Nonetheless, traders are enthusiastic about what the Nuance deal could imply for this know-how sooner or later. Moody’s sees the acquisition as a boon to Microsoft’s present developments in voice recognition and a chance for the tech large to dominate the healthcare sector. Within the subsequent yr, the investor service initiatives that Nuance will garner $1.4 billion in income and $250 million in free money stream, per a latest report. It additionally sees the deal as a protecting measure towards different innovators within the voice recognition house like Amazon and Alphabet, each of which provide software program that helps doctors transcribe notes and make sense of medical data.

Nuance and Microsoft have been working collectively since 2019, once they merged Nuance’s voice recognition software program and ambient sensing {hardware} with Microsoft’s cloud service and Clever Scribe Service. Since then, Nuance offered its human-based transcription business so as to concentrate on its synthetic intelligence. It additionally purchased Saykara, a Seattle-based AI medical documentation firm, initially of 2021. Now, below Microsoft, the 2 manufacturers are effectively poised to promote a variety of technological instruments for doctors. However how shortly can they actually chip away on the downside of doctors spending an excessive amount of time within the EHR?

Springmann says she believes that ambient listening know-how is getting shut. Nonetheless, she acknowledges that a lot of the prevailing know-how is simply step one in a protracted journey. “Voice recognition has gotten us began down that path,” she says.