Nuance Leads the Way in AI-Powered Solutions

Kieran Anderson, vice president of Anderson Publishing, Inc., and group publisher of Applied Radiology and Applied Radiation Oncology, recently spoke with Peter Durlach, executive vice president and chief strategy officer at Nuance.

Nuance Communications, Inc. has long played a role in developing conversational artificial intelligence and ambient intelligence across multiple industries, including healthcare. Now Nuance and Microsoft are helping address healthcare challenges with artificial intelligence (AI) tools.

In a deal valued at nearly $20 billion, Nuance was acquired by Microsoft in early 2022. Driven by their shared vision to improve healthcare, the two companies have joined forces to develop AI solutions to convert unstructured voice data into structured reports, to reduce clinician burnout, and to detect and treat disease earlier, faster, and more effectively.

Converting Dictation to Formal Reports

Take physician dictation, for example. According to Peter Durlach, executive vice president and chief strategy officer at Nuance, speech recognition is the most sought-after capability in healthcare, with 80 percent of radiologists using AI to help compose their reports and other documentation. But they want more.

“The holy grail for radiologists is to look at an image and talk however they want, as fast as they want, and magically have a structured report come out,” Durlach said. “They want the value of structured data without pointing and clicking.”

To this end, Nuance’s AI-powered PowerScribe One radiology reporting software features “ambient mode,” which automatically turns a radiologist’s free-form dictation into organized, structured reports. “You get the benefit of structured data without putting any of the burden on the radiologist,” he said.

Easing Burnout

Speech recognition is just one area where Durlach said Nuance is dedicated to creating technologies that “make radiologists more efficient in a world where they’re overwhelmed.”

He noted that AI tools are evolving to a point where they are now completing tedious tasks for radiologists, from accessing prior studies to taking measurements and scoring lesions, driving efficiency, productivity and value for downstream clinical partners in neurology, pulmonology, and other specialties. In the process, they are helping to relieve burnout, a widely recognized issue among the radiology community.

Nuance has deployed an infrastructure, the Precision Imaging Network (PIN), on Microsoft’s  Azure platform, that features more than 200 products and services that providers can choose from to build, run, and manage AI applications across multiple clouds and on-premise servers.

Combining Nuance’s industry-leading workflows and vast reporting and image-sharing infrastructure with the scale, security and strength of Microsoft Azure, the PIN enables the seamless hosting, integration and management of partner AI services through a single data-driven platform.  As a result, the platform can support imaging’s role in advancing precision medicine.

“Then [physicians] can focus on therapeutics,” Durlach explained. “They can combine imaging, EHR and genomics data to determine treatment pathways and drug choices.”

For example, he said one researcher built a new model to help identify Alzheimer's disease earlier than previously possible. Publishing that model on the Precision Imaging Network can help clinicians immediately take advantage of this research.

“Now you can unleash the research community to build models that help patients, then drive them into workflow because Nuance has 80% market segment share in clinical practice today,” he said. “The client doesn’t need to buy a new product, they don’t need a separate Business Associate Agreement, and there are standard mechanisms on the software side to deploy these models.

“The impact it can have on patients is mind-blowing because you’re unlocking all these research people to actually drive innovation at the bedside,” Durlach concluded.

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