Nuance and IBM Collaborate on Clinical Language Understanding Capabilities for Healthcare

Nuance Communications and IBM today announced that the companies are working to advance the state of the art in clinical language understanding (CLU) technologies that will enable healthcare organizations to understand and use the clinical information contained in the more than 2 billion patient reports dictated every year in the United States alone.

As part of this agreement, teams of leading natural language processing (NLP) researchers at IBM and Nuance are collaborating to integrate the two companies’ technologies. By working together, Nuance and IBM will advance the use of NLP technologies as a core component of electronic health record (EHR) workflows.

With a goal to transform healthcare clinical documentation through advanced technologies, Nuance and IBM are developing systems that will automatically extract and convert discrete, clinical data from clinician dictated narrative into actionable information that can be used to bring a more evidence-based approach to patient care. Advanced CLU capabilities, a healthcare specific form of natural language processing technologies, will help healthcare organizations unlock valuable patient information from the billions of medical reports that are created in a free-form, unstructured format each year. Access to this information will drive better and more cost-effective patient care across the healthcare industry and will strengthen organizations’ efforts to comply with quality reporting and pay-for-performance requirements, such as those outlined in the HITECH Act’s Meaningful Use criteria.

“The broad digitization of health data and patients’ medical records will generate an enormous amount of clinical information, creating a tremendous opportunity for the healthcare industry to gain valuable insight into what has and has not worked successfully from a patient care and operational perspective,” said Dr. John E. Kelly III, IBM senior vice president and director of IBM Research. “With Nuance, we’ll work to ensure healthcare organizations can gain access to, and classify health data to improve patient outcomes and to help lower the cost of healthcare.”

With these advanced CLU technologies integrated into Nuance’s suite of speech recognition solutions, clinicians will be empowered to document via speech recognition into the EHR—the preferred method of documentation for many clinicians—knowing a CLU-enhanced system can process, identify, and extract important clinical data elements such as problems, social history, medications, allergies, and procedures from the free-form, narrative text.

“Together, we share a commitment to transform the flow of information and the efficacy of EHRs within healthcare organizations. This unprecedented collaboration, between two leaders in health IT, will help facilitate information exchange and knowledge to deliver actionable data, bend the healthcare cost curve and help improve the care we all receive,” said Paul Ricci, chairman and CEO of Nuance. “By combining our clinical language understanding solutions with the innovative work underway at IBM and Nuance, we will continue to bring unmatched, natural language technologies to the thousands of hospitals and physician practices that rely on Nuance clinical documentation solutions.”

“Nuance and IBM are taking on a critical project that will bring tremendous value to patient care. Clinical language understanding presents a real opportunity to bridge the gap between physicians’ documentation preferences and the need for structured, measurable clinical data,” said Reid F. Conant, an emergency physician and chief medical informatics officer at Tri-City Emergency Medical Group. “Protecting and encouraging clinician dictation is important to ongoing, high-quality patient care. Without the inclusion of such detailed physician notes, there is validated concern amongst caregivers that patients’ medical records will be reduced to cookie-cutter documents that do not differentiate from one patient to the next.”

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