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Nuance: Competition Is Pulling Healthcare Into The Digital Era

Nuance: Competition Is Pulling Healthcare Into The Digital Era

June 08, 2021 at 09:00AM
by PYMNTS

The healthcare industry has developed a special reputation for being a difficult environment for innovation, a place where new technology, ironically, goes to die.

The inevitable outcome of this, Nuance Chief Strategy Officer Peter Durlach told PYMNTS, is that healthcare has been late to the game when it comes to taking on new ways to engage with consumers digitally. But that is changing as pandemic-driven advancements, such as telehealth, have finally gotten a foothold in the market, while regulatory hurdles that had previously slowed innovation have also been lifted.

This shift has drawn in outside disrupters — the Amazons, Walmarts and OneMedicals of the world — that are looking to press further into the market, and in turn put additional pressure on legacy players to start building an environment that is easier for patients to interact with.

When The Knowledge Worker Is Also The Producer

Medical care is a unique business to work in because unlike other fields, making a mistake doesn’t mean just losing money — it means that someone can actually die, he said.

Healthcare, unlike any other industry, is a space in which the most educated and critical knowledge workers in the system are also like “factory workers” producing widgets — which in this case is patient care.

All kinds of “great ideas” that made total sense to the business side of the house to implement were shipwrecked on being useless to doctors, and thus ignored, he said.

“You have to find areas where the incentives for the people using it, which are often the clinicians, are aligned with the people paying for it,” Durlach said. “And you have to sew all of this together, and then you have to build something that actually works and is actually going to do what it’s supposed to do.”

For Nuance, the key has been starting at the very beginning with the pain points that are “so clear and burning” that no matter what healthcare system one walks into, “everyone kind of nods their heads when you describe it to them,” he said.

Rewriting Note Taking

Something most patients fail to appreciate is how much time an average physician spends just taking notes. It doesn’t matter if the appointment is virtual or in the office, Durlach said, every doctor has to divide attention between treating the patient and properly documenting that treatment — because if they don’t, it is hard to treat the patient over time, and the doctor doesn’t get paid. Those processes are competing for the physician’s cognitive time — and patients can easily end up on the losing end of that competition.

Nuance’s voice transcription tech essentially takes notes at a high-enough level of complexity to keep track of every speaker during an appointment as well as when different people are speaking. This leveraging of voice technology is designed to enhance clinicians’ experience by lifting the entire documentation burden.

“We have hard data that shows the physician’s experience improves radically from 72 percent burned out before to 17 percent afterward,” he said. “And we have lots of anecdotes about how the experience for them has completely changed because they’ve gotten rid of that cognitive load.”

On the patient’s side, he said, a different set of advantages have emerged.

“We have data showing that [patient’s] experience of the provider paying attention and making eye contact has improved 80 to 90 percent.”

While notes and transcription seem like small things, they actually make a big difference to both the provider and patient experiences as well as medical outcomes, he said. The signs keep pointing in the same direction to a healthcare system finally incentivized to develop truly omnichannel patient engagement technology that creates a bridge between providers and patients while simplifying and elevating the entire treatment journal.

The Time For Change

Traditional medical players have been hesitant adopters of technology, but that laggard attitude is no longer sustainable. Consumer demands have expanded too greatly, and too many third parties are banging on the space’s door with innovations demanding entrance.

And if stalling is no longer an option, Durlach said, the only door left for the industry is the one marked innovation.

“I think the big thing you’re going to see is the use of this technology — the ability to book an appointment, change an appointment, find out what the next thing to do is if you’re being monitored at home,” he said. “All of those interactions are going to get much easier because the health system knows they are not going to survive if they don’t redefine how to make it easy.”