Microsoft announced last Thursday (17 October) its new partnership with Nuance Communications, a conversational artificial intelligence (AI) company based in Massachusetts, to create an “exam room of the future” powered by new technologies, to minimize physician burnouts and cater more time for doctors to engage with their patients while automates clinical documentation and employs AI-driven tools to complete various administrative tasks.

Ambient clinical intelligence (ACI)

More specifically, the partnership will optimize Nuance’s speech recognition and processing solutions on its existing Dragon Medical platform, backed up with Microsoft’s cloud computing service – Azure, Azure AI and its intelligent medical scribe service, and venture into the delivery of ambient clinical intelligence (ACI) or a series of tech solutions that will accumulate information from physician-patient conversations and inject them directly into the electronic health records (EHRs).

This new ACI initiative coupling ambient listening, conversational AI, natural language processing (NLP), document summarization, text-to-speech, signal enhancement, voice biometrics, and clinical intelligence, will be introduced to a pioneer group of physician specialties in early 2020. As a result, Nuance will be moving most of its on-premise internal infrastructure and hosted products to Microsoft Azure.

“The Microsoft partnership will accelerate our ability to solve for healthcare’s most pressing challenges – together. 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,” said Mark Benjamin, Chief Executive Officer of Nuance in the press release.

A fierce competition in the clinical voice assistant space

Microsoft has established partnerships with several big health companies like Walgreens over the past one year and now, there are more than 25,000 health firms run on Microsoft Cloud. Adding a new clinical voice assistant or ACI initiative, is believed by some, to put the tech tycoon at a better position to compete with its rival – Amazon, in the creation of clinical voice assistant.

Presently, Amazon is projects to have a say over 50% of the global cloud computing market while Microsoft closely follow behind at 22%. In the latest AI report published by Microsoft UK at the beginning of the month, the company is confident at the continuous impact that AI will have in healthcare. Thus, by getting a bigger slice of the pie, especially in the area of clinical documentation to combat physician burnout, will secure Microsoft’s overall competitive advantage.

As Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s Chief Executive Officer added in the press release, “We have an incredible opportunity to use advances in cloud and AI technology to transform healthcare delivery. Together with Nuance, we will apply the power of Azure and Azure AI to this challenge, with the aim of improving the day-to-day life of firstline healthcare workers everywhere – so they can provide better care”.

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Hazel Tang

A science writer with data background and an interest in the current affair, culture, and arts; a no-med from an (almost) all-med family. Follow on Twitter.