Microsoft bets on health with $19bn purchase of Nuance

14 April, 2021 12:00 AM printer

NEW YORK: Microsoft is to acquire artificial intelligence and cloud computing company Nuance for $19.7 billion, bolstering its healthcare presence with a leader in voice recognition technology, reports AFP.

Nuance's technology includes a conversational AI tool versed in specialized medical terms, freeing physicians from note-taking and allowing better patient-physician interactions in person or in the telemedicine appointments that have taken off during the pandemic, executives said.

Nuance's program "has completely redefined clinical documentation by capturing and contextualizing every words of the physician/patient encounter and automatically documenting it," said Microsoft Chief Executive Satya Nadella during a briefing Monday.

Nuance's technology is used extensively in medical records and is currently employed in more than three-quarters of US hospitals, Microsoft said in a news release. The transaction is all-cash and the sum includes Nuance's net debt.

Nuance's technology is currently used by more than 55 percent of physicians and 75 percent of radiologists in the United States. Microsoft said the deal would double its potential healthcare market to nearly $500 billion.

This acquisition builds on the existing partnership between the two companies, which have been collaborating since 2019 in telemedicine, a sector whose growth has been spurred exponentially by Covid-19 lockdowns around the world.

Last year, the Redmond, Washington-based giant integrated Nuance Communication's Dragon Ambient eXperience program into its Teams communications software, which enables remote transcription of medical conversations."

Microsoft also sees potential to expand the technology beyond health care. For example, the similar AI transcriptions could be employed by financial advisors, said Scott Guthrie, executive vice president for Microsoft's cloud and AI group.

"Nearly any professional service could benefit from real-time engagement converted into material intelligence that drives actions," Guthrie said during an investor presentation.

"Every customer I talk to is looking to make the right decision at the right time for all of their stakeholders."

The deal comes on the heels of Microsoft's 2016 purchase of LinkedIn for $27 billion and represents "the latest step in Microsoft's industry-specific cloud strategy," the company said.