Microsoft Will Bring Nuance Clinical Voice Tech to Azure

Voice technology giant Nuance announced that it will collaborate with Microsoft to boost the development and deployment of its ambient clinical intelligence (ACI) technology. ACI is designed to assist medical professionals by gathering information from conversations between doctors and patients to add to electronic health records (EHRs) without distracting the doctor from speaking with the patient while shortening the time doctors must spend on administrative tasks.

Dragon Doctors

Nuance is best known for creating Dragon, one of the first and most popular voice recognition and transcription platforms. The company launched the Dragon Medical Virtual Assistant in 2017 as a clinical workflow-focused approach to its services. Microsoft meanwhile has been pushing forward on its own health enterprise technology, including the Project EmpowerMD Intelligent Scribe Service. Now, Nuance’s products and technology will operate via the Microsoft Azure cloud platform.

The idea behind the Dragon Medical Virtual Assistant is to offer doctors a way of recording patient information in EHRs faster and more efficiently than can be done manually. The virtual assistant that can understand medical terminology and how to integrate the notes into the overall electronic filing system. Nuance says there are now more than 500,000 physicians using Dragon Medical software for that purpose. Nuance will start appearing on Azure for a select number of doctor specialties starting next year.

“The Microsoft partnership will accelerate our ability to solve for healthcare’s most pressing challenges — together,” Nuance CEO Mark Benjamin said in a statement. “The ambient technologies we will jointly deliver can improve productivity and professional satisfaction while empowering doctors to focus on what they do best: take care of patients.”

Beyond allowing the doctor to speak with the patient without needing to take notes, the ability of the voice assistant to auto-populate the EHR cuts down a lot of the time that doctors currently spend on data entry. Spending hours a day on that kind of administrative work is a leading cause of doctor burnout. According to a study in Annals of Family Medicine, doctors spend twice as much time doing administrative work as patient care and it’s a leading cause of doctors quitting the profession. Fatigue from extending work-hours for data entry can also play a role in doctors making dangerous mistakes.

Vocal Health

There are a growing number of ways companies are applying voice technology to healthcare. While home consumer products like LifePod and Pria focus on helping care for people outside of doctor’s appointments, there’s a lot of interest in integrating voice technology into professional healthcare as well.

Microsoft and Amazon’s rivalry for the multi-billion dollar cloud computing market plays a part in this space as well. Though startups like Suki offer their services for doctors, the bigger names, including Nuance, can bundle their tech with a lot of other products, making it easier for hospitals and medical practices to stay in their tech ecosystem.

Nuance, Microsoft and Amazon also benefit from having already earned HIPAA certification from previous endeavors. Younger companies like Suki are also HIPAA-compliant, but it’s an extra obstacle for future competitors. At a time when voice assistants are under a lot of scrutiny for privacy violations, extra assurances that their medical information is safe is critical for getting patients to assent to doctor’s using Dragon Medical Virtual Assistant and for hospital privacy officers to approve the system.


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