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How Microsoft’s new $16B acquisition could bring AI to your doctor’s office

On Tuesday, Microsoft announced it had acquired Nuance Communications for $16 billion. Nuance is a pioneer in the field of advanced medical transcription, but the technology is still young. The battle to reduce the administrative burden for doctors using artificial intelligence is intensifying, and the acquisition could position Microsoft well to compete against other tech giants as they jostle for dominance within healthcare.

Nuance has a long history as a medical transcription service and has invested heavily in voice recognition technology. The hope is that its technology could potentially reduce the number of hours that doctors spend inputting medical information into patients’ electronic health records (EHR). Physicians spend 16 minutes per patient inputting information into their EHR, according to a much-cited study last year. How much of that is time well spent is another question entirely. That’s why Nuance is trying to reduce the hours doctors spend toiling inside of the EHR.

The 28-year old company is a well-established player in the health industry. Some 77% of U.S. hospitals and roughly half of all doctors in the country use Nuance’s technology. Still, it’s very early days for AI medical assistant software generally.

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