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Microsoft’s Souped-Up Voice A.I. Offers Tantalizing Prospects for Your Business

For a glimpse at the future of work, look no further than the U.S. health care system.

Clinicians and hospital systems across the country are increasingly adopting voice-operable artificial intelligence technology that offers to trim the time they spend on data entry. No, it’s not Cortana. 

The technology goes by the name of Dragon Ambient eXperience, or Nuance DAX for short. The ambient clinical intelligence solution stems from a partnership between Microsoft and Burlington, Massachusetts-based software maker Nuance Communications. In a recent keynote at CB Insights’ Future of Health conference, David Rhew, Microsoft’s global chief medical officer and vice president of healthcare, offered up his appraisal of the tech and the evolving frontier of artificial intelligence more generally.

Nuance DAX translates medical exam conversation from voice to text in real-time. Then, Microsoft Azure, the tech giant’s cloud computing platform, identifies the speaker, ingests relevant information and maps those terms or phrases. This allows for an original conversation between a physician and a patient to be converted into a clinical progress note or a patient’s history. After a clinician takes a look at these notes and makes any adjustments, they’re integrated into the electronic health record. 

It was created as a means for improving clinician and patient experiences, but it’s also alleviating clinician burnout. Though burnout was already cause for concern before the pandemic, a survey released by Medscape in September 2020 shows that Covid-19 continued to rattle physicians.

Clinicians using the technology shaved between 50 and 75 percent of their data entry time, says Rhew. “It expands our capabilities in terms of allowing us to become much more efficient.”

That boost in efficiency could be transformative for commercial businesses, too. Any business in need of processing speech in real time can benefit from the technology. Consider the utility for call centers or even just taking minutes from a meeting.

While it remains to be seen if Nuance DAX itself will cross into other industries, the differing applications for the technology present exciting prospects for employers–particularly if labor shortages continue. 

And in the context of healthcare specifically, the technology can improve technology interoperability, or the ability of multiple systems to interact with one another to exchange and process health information. It’s something that the healthcare sector has struggled with for years. 

But there’s a big need for interoperability as well, especially amid the backdrop of the pandemic. “People nowadays are starting to recognize that they need to have information such as [their] vaccine status or a negative Covid result to enter into facilities and to be able to do certain things–and that is part of your medical record,” Rhew says. 

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