Doctors for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will take notes and records of remote appointments using Nuance’s Dragon Medical One platform, the company announced this week. The speech recognition technology supports a virtual assistant enabling medical professionals interact with their pateints from afar without the distraction of notetaking, improving care as the role of telehealth expands during the current COVID-19 health crisis.
Nuance launched Dragon Medical as an enhancement for the existing Dragon transcription program. The platform is designed to track a patient’s history and treatment more efficiently than manual systems. The virtual assistant can understand medical vocabulary well enough to mark important comments, collating the notes into a usable format to help fill out electronic health records and other paperwork. The VA is applying Nuance’s tech to appointments over the phone or through the VA Video Connect platform. That the VA chose Nuance isn’t too big a surprise. The company supplies its platform to many parts of the federal government, including the Military Health System. The VA started operating Dragon Medical back in 2014, so the tech is already approved for integration into its services, which will speed up the adoption.
“Helping frontline clinicians at the VA and other major health systems has been our highest priority since the pandemic began,” Nuance executive vice president and general manager of healthcare Diana Nole said in a statement. “The combination of our cloud-based platforms, organizational agility and deep experience working with the VA health system made it possible for us to act quickly and deliver the technology solutions needed to protect and assist physicians treating patients remotely. While our strong sense of mission and purpose in serving critical healthcare organizations and businesses already is very clear, it becomes amplified knowing that our technology solutions are playing a role in caring for our nation’s Veterans.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has only escalated the demands on every doctor’s time and energy, and telemedicine has attracted a lot of interest as a result. Nuance recently upped its partnership with Microsoft, for instance, the virtual check-ups performed over Microsoft Teams now offer Nuance’s ambient clinical intelligence (ACI) to transcribe the conversation and help fill in electronic health records. And health technology developer Cerner added the Dragon Medical Virtual Assistant to its platform this summer, allowing doctors using Cerner’s platform to fill in and search EHRs of patients by voice. The Cerner partnership will be a feature for VA doctors using Nuance’s tech as well.
While bringing voice AI to medical records had been on the rise already, COVID-19 accelerated the trend, with investors casting a speculative eye on startups in the field. Venture capitalists showered Saykara and Suki raising $9 million and $40 million, respectively, for their takes on the technology. Suki is also being used as a feature in larger products like Amazon’s Amazon Transcribe Medical. More than half a million physicians already use Dragon Medical, and the company claims it cuts the time spent on paperwork by up to 75%. Even for remote calls, that frees up a lot of time and energy for VA doctors to better care for their patients.