Epic teams up with Nuance on voice assistant technology

Nuance, a voice AI company, has announced that its technology will be integrating with Epic's EHR apps.
By Laura Lovett

Looking to relieve the glut of paperwork surrounding physicians, voice AI company Nuance has teamed up with EHR company Epic to integrate its platform into Epic’s apps.

The companies' new system was developed to help doctors more easily manage clinical documentation. The idea is that doctors will be able to open up one of Epic’s compatible apps and retrieve schedules, patient information, lab results, medication lists, and summaries by voice command. The technology will work with both Epic’s Rover and Haiku workflow systems. 

Nuance started out creating voice AI systems for other industries, but then gradually moved into the healthcare space. 

“The technology we have is an advanced, conversational, AI-based virtual agent software we use at Nuance,” Peter Durlach, Nuance's SVP of healthcare strategy, told MobiHealthNews. “This is used today in many industries outside of healthcare to power some of the largest corporations. We use a virtual assistant in your car today. We power the vast number of those interactions. So a number of years ago we brought that technology over to the healthcare region and wrapped a fully HIPAA-compliant set of technologies around that, and added in around that skills or knowledge around what physicians like to do with virtual assistants in healthcare.”

But creating a system for the healthcare field also means that it must be accurate and not lead to mistakes. 

“In the healthcare environment if you are ordering a test or describing what their disease is, every word and every action has a significant effect on the care of the patients,” Durlach said. “So you need the performance of these things to be much higher than the consumer phase of the system.”

The two companies are working with Vanderbilt University Medical Center on implementing the technology. 

“We have worked closely with Nuance and Epic and have found that using Nuance’s voice assistant with Epic not only helps us empower our physicians through voice, but enables us to leverage virtual assistants to assist with tasks while supporting HIPAA compliance,” Dr. Yaa Kumah-Crystal, assistant professor of biomedical informatics and pediatric endocrinology at VUMC, said in a statement. “We believe the incorporation of voice assistants in the provider workflow can enhance the delivery of care and we will continue to team with leaders in health IT to deliver on this commitment. One of our physicians described the platform like a helpful intern always ready with an answer.”

In the future Nuance plans to have a voice system that can passively collect and document. 

“We also showcased a next-generation vision for what we call 'ambient clinical documentation,'” Durlach said. “Eventually you will be able to go into an exam room with a physician and the technology; with the combination of the software we are announcing today plus some advancements we are making in the software and a smart speaker for healthcare that sits on the wall, [and] automatically generate a draft set of documentation for that encounter without the physician having to dictate anything directly.”

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Ralf-Gordon Jahns (pictured on the right) is the Managing Director of Research2Guidance, a leading market analyst and strategy consultancy company for the global digital health market.