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Nuance's full stack clinical AI play

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Apr 25, 2023
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Illustration: Tiffany Herring/Axios

Microsoft-owned Nuance Communications is "laser-focused" on addressing clinician burnout via its generative pre-trained transformer (GPT) language model, says chief strategy officer Peter Durlach.

Why it matters: With Microsoft’s technology engine and Nuance’s firm foothold in health care already, the company is positioned to build a full stack of clinical AI entirely in-house.

Driving the news: Nuance unveiled its Dragon Ambient eXperience (DAX) Express solution last month, which combines Nuance’s existing conversational and ambient AI capabilities with Microsoft’s OpenAI GPT-4 model.

  • DAX automatically produces draft clinical documentation in real time, directly from a live conversation between a patient and a clinician.
  • The company's Dragon medical platform has more than 550,000 users, and with DAX, each provider gets an "AI-powered co-pilot to help them reduce their administrative burden which every clinician is struggling with," Durlach says.

Between the lines: Google, which has launched its own GPT health care efforts, has said it plans to be the tech engine that health care companies can build on.

  • By contrast, "Microsoft through Nuance has a play" to build its health care AI tools itself, says Suki AI CEO Punit Soni.
  • "We understand behaviors of physicians and what their expectations are," Nuance chief technology officer Joe Petro told Axios at HIMSS last week.
  • "What Microsoft brings to the table is a tremendous amount of technical horsepower, and partnerships with openAI — we enjoy sitting at that table," Petro says.

State of play: As GPT use cases continue to expand, Durlach expects "even more AI companies to form, given all the excitement with the new technology."

Yes, but: "You need great, differentiated technology and the ability to scale commercially to make a real impact with AI," he says.

  • Many companies cannot achieve both of these objectives on their own for a variety of reasons, whether it’s the economic climate, size, expertise or resources," he continues.
  • Durlach predicts an M&A shakeout over the next few years as the market attempts to cut through the noise and valuation expectations settle. (He was mum on whether Nuance could be a consolidator).
  • Similarly, the executive foresees funding to decline while capital shifts to "true AI-powered innovation and more proven business models."

The bottom line: Petro, who has watched Nuance's AI efforts advance over his 15-year tenure, says "this is just the beginning."

  • "I was used to it conditioned and seeing how beneficial AI can be, but the large language model brings us into a new territory," he says. "Some of the best ideas have yet to make it to market."
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