Microsoft Tackles Medical Burn-Out

Partners with Nuance to ease administrative burden on doctors

In many healthcare systems, documentation and administration tasks consume significantly more time than providing patient care. Administrators have been turning to so-called “ambient clinical intelligence” systems to increase efficiency by automating, digitizing and storing information from conversations between patients and practitioners. Details from these interactions are compiled into electronic health records, which are stored using cloud services for easy reference.

A couple of weeks ago, Microsoft and voice-recognition company Nuance announced a partnership to accelerate the delivery of ambient clinical intelligence to healthcare providers. Each company will apply their respective areas of expertise.

Nuance, known for its Dragon-branded voice-recognition systems, has established itself as a leading provider of clinical documentation and decision-making support, powered by artificial intelligence (AI), for physicians. The company uses its strategic partnerships with major providers of electronic health records and has spent decades developing medically relevant speech recognition and processing solutions such as its Dragon Medical One platform, which allows doctors to easily and naturally enter a patient’s story and relevant information into their electronic record. Nuance’s conversational AI technologies are deployed by more than 500,000 physicians worldwide, as well as in 90% of hospitals in the US.

Microsoft brings deep research investments in AI and partner-driven healthcare technologies, commercial relationships with nearly 170,000 healthcare organizations, and enterprise-focussed cloud and AI services. The collaboration mixes Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform and AI capabilities with Nuance’s expertise in clinical documentation and clinical speech recognition to develop ambient clinical intelligence. The goal is to use technology to reduce clinician burn-out by allowing doctors to focus more on patients and less on electronic health records and administrative tasks.

This collaboration is part of a growing trend of healthcare providers and technology suppliers migrating to cloud platforms. Over the past year, Microsoft has established partnerships with Walgreens and Walmart, and more than 25,000 US health businesses run on its Azure cloud (see Microsoft Links Up with Walgreens).

The agreement that Microsoft has signed with Nuance — and with others targeting the healthcare sector — and the significant number of US health companies running on Microsoft Azure points to an important opportunity for growth for the company. But Microsoft isn’t alone in its efforts to forge alliances in the healthcare market; other cloud platform giants also maintain a breadth of healthcare solutions, relationships and services.

The healthcare sector is clearly fertile ground for new cloud opportunities and product innovations. Although it may prove to be a lucrative albeit highly competitive market, the key to success will be in overcoming the integration and interoperability challenge that will come from needing to connect with a wide range of applications and systems used within the healthcare industry beyond that of an electronic health record solution.

The partnership announcement is good news for Nuance, and it will be interesting to see who it will look to next to extend its product reach as a cloud service. If it really is becoming a multicloud, hybrid infrastructure world, a healthcare organization is unlikely to have just one cloud service platform.

Microsoft will use its relationship with Nuance to gain more healthcare clients for Microsoft Azure services, expanding its cloud business. This is a crucial part of Microsoft’s strategy, as is the company’s goal of challenging Amazon for cloud leadership. There’s significant opportunity in bringing more efficiencies to healthcare infrastructures around the globe.