Can big tech partnership make EHRs easier to use?

October 22, 2019

Two major technology companies are pitching a smart exam room that removes administrative barriers to face-to-face healthcare.

Allowing doctors to be present with their patients-rather than distracted by EHR documentation-seems to be the goal of a new partnership between Microsoft and Nuance Communications Inc. to bring ambient clinical intelligence (ACI) to exam rooms.

The partnership seeks to accelerate development of and deliver this technology to exam rooms allowing ambient sensing and conversation AI to handle burdensome administrative work. The goal is to use technology to create clinical documentation that essentially writes itself rather than taking up hours which can be better spent focusing of the patients, according to an blog post by Microsoft announcing the partnership.

While there is still a deal more that must be developed to make this futuristic smart exam room a reality, the companies believe they’ve already built a strong foundation in Nuance’s ACI technology which was unveiled earlier this year and Microsoft’s Project EmpowerMD Intelligent Scribe Service which both use AI to convert conversations between doctors and patients into clinical documentation, the post said.

“Physicians got into medicine because they wanted to help and heal people, but they are spending a lot of their time today outside of the care process,” says Joe Petro, executive vice president and chief technology officer of Nuance. “They’re entering in data to make sure the appropriate bill can be generated. They’re capturing insights for population health and quality measures. And although this data is all important, it’s really outside a physician’s core focus on treating that patient.”

The need for such a time-saving endeavor is clear when one realizes a 2017 study in Annals of Family Medicine found that physicians spend nearly half of their day in EHRs, or nearly two hours for every hour of direct patient care.

The new technology is built on Microsoft Azure and works in tandem an EHR. It will “marry” the two companies’ expertise to create an AI which is capable of features including:

·      Ambient listening with patient consent

·      Wake-up word

·      Voice biometrics

·      Signal enhancement

·      Document summarization

·      Natural language understanding

·      Clinical intelligence

·      Text-to-speech

“Just capturing a conversation between two people has been a thorny technical problem for a long time, and a lot of companies have attempted to crack it,” Petro says. “This partnership brings two trusted healthcare superpowers together to solve some of the most difficult challenges and also to leverage the most innovative advances we’ve made in AI, speech, and natural language processing.”

The partnership will seek to expand on Nuance’s early ACI success and bring the technology to an initial set of physician specialties in early 2020 before expanding to other specialties over the following few years, the release says.

To start, the ACI output will be checked by a remoter reviewer with medical expertise as a quality check to produce more training data for the AI models, but once the system has proven its accuracy for a specific physician, the information will go directly to the physician.