Ambient clinical intelligence push aims to aid docs, ease EHR burdens

A recently announced collaboration between Nuance Communications and Microsoft is part of a growing movement to use information technology to assist—and not burden—doctors.

The use of ambient clinical intelligence holds the promise of bringing IT alongside clinicians to support them and give them the ability to focus their attention on patients, without having technology get in the way, contends Eric Topol, MD.

The effort by Nuance and Microsoft was announced last week, with the bold aim of “transforming healthcare delivery for a more sustainable future,” primarily by speeding the use of ambient clinical intelligence (ACI) technologies.

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In this scenario, clinicians would interact with patients verbally, and the technology would enable the compilation of clinical notes by automatically extracting relevant information for clinical records invisibly, in the background, without clinician intervention during the patient encounter.

Topol, the founder and director of The Scripps Research Institute, said the new alliance between the two vendors is part of a broader effort in the IT community to adapt technology to improve physician efficiency and reduce the risk of burnout by doctors.

In a presentation at Liberation 2019, the annual meeting of Medecision, in Frisco, Texas, Topol noted that nearly two dozen organizations are working on these initiatives.

Working in tandem with electronic health record partners to develop the technology, ACI will deliver a seamless and engaging interaction between clinicians and patients. Through patient consent, ACI will synthesize patient-clinician conversations, integrate that data with contextual information from the EHR, and auto-populate the patient's medical record in the system.

The Nuance-Microsoft initiative aims to combine relevant technologies of the companies.

Nuance brings its healthcare-optimized speech recognition and processing solutions, such as its Dragon Medical platform now in use by more than 500,000 physicians worldwide, as well as its advanced conversational AI for ambient clinical documentation and decision support, voice biometrics and specialized ambient sensing hardware.

For its part, Microsoft will mix in Azure, Azure AI and Project EmpowerMD Intelligent Scribe Service, backed with advanced conversational AI and natural language understanding.

Recent studies suggest that physician burnout is at epidemic levels. A recent study shows that primary care doctors now spend two hours on administrative tasks for every hour they're involved in direct patient care. Physicians reported one to two hours of after-hours work each night, mostly related to administrative tasks.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said, "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 first-line healthcare workers everywhere so they can provide better care."

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