Cerner, Nuance plan expanded Dragon Ambient eXperience collaboration

This past week at HIMSS22, Cerner and Nuance put out word that they’ll expand their decade-long collaboration to further integrate Nuance’s Dragon Ambient eXperience technology into Cerner’s Millennium electronic health record.

The companies expect the expanded integration of DAX will help hospitals and health systems better manage the ballooning administrative workloads that are major contributors to clinician burnout. The goal is also to expand patient access and improve care outcomes with “clinical documentation that writes itself,” officials said.

Microsoft Azure-based DAX can capture and contextualize physician-patient conversations during both virtual and in-person exams – helping more efficiently and securely document care encounters in the clinical note.

The new Nuance-Cerner collaboration aims to expand capabilities for providers, helping automate EHR data and order entry, recognize keywords that can be quickly added to a record – allergies, medications, orders, problems, procedure history – and enabling more complete documentation in the EHR.

These advanced capabilities “will be available for joint clients in Cerner Millennium at a later date,” the companies say.

Cerner’s voice recognition collaboration with Nuance dates back, at least, all the way back to 2012. Nuance has continued to innovate its AI and NLP technology since then, of course, and launched Dragon Ambient eXperience in 2020

The expansion of their work together in 2022 poses some interesting questions, given the significant multi-billion dollar M&A moves both companies were involved with this past year – with Microsoft acquiring Nuance for $20 billion and Oracle hoping to close its $28 billion Cerner buy soon.

How those Big Tech behemoths will play together on the newly-competitive voice recognition battleground remains to be seen.

Indeed, Oracle pitched cloud technology and voice as central drivers to its planned acquisition of Cerner, and many analysts see NLP as key to the deal’s success.

But it was not talking about Nuance and Microsoft Azure in its December 2021 press release, of course;it was touting its own technologies. Oracle’s “Voice Digital Assistant user interface enables us to rapidly modernize Cerner’s systems and move them to our Gen2 Cloud,” said Mike Sicilia, EVP of Vertical Industries at Oracle.

Oracle founder Larry Ellison, meanwhile, envisions his company working with Cerner to build “a new generation of easier-to-use digital tools that enable access to information via a hands-free voice interface to secure cloud applications.”

That’s all contingent on the deal’s completion – which, despite some delays, is still said to be on track for the first half of this year.

In the meantime, Cerner and Nuance note that U.S. health systems are facing a shortage of 3.2 million healthcare workers in the next five years, and point out in this past week’s announcement that physicians spend more than 16 minutes in the EHR per patient, on average, compared with just 15 minutes allotted for most patient appointments.

Both companies say expanded use of voice-enabled clinical documentation can help streamline workflows and improve provider and patient experience.

“Integrating Nuance DAX and our conversational AI technology with the Cerner Millennium EHR is a natural extension of our multi-year collaboration to empower physicians, nurses and other care providers with innovative capabilities for improving healthcare outcomes,” said Diana Nole, general manager of Nuance’s healthcare division, in a statement.

“The growing number of health systems that have deployed Nuance DAX to reduce clinician burnout are consistently reporting improvements in physician satisfaction, patient experience, and documentation quality,” she added. “Deeper integration with Cerner will enable clinicians to access the benefits of ambient and conversational AI more quickly and easily – and will streamline workflows while enhancing the essential value of the EHR for delivering care.”

“By strengthening our collaboration with Nuance to automate administrative tasks during a patient’s visit, we will help caregivers get back to caring for patients faster,” said Dr. Nasim Afsar, chief health officer, Cerner, in a statement. “And it will help patients ensure they get the care they need – allowing Cerner to further enhance our value as a trusted healthcare partner within our communities.”

Twitter: @MikeMiliardHITN
Email the writer: [email protected]

Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS publication.

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