Gil Carrara, Americas Leader of Boyden’s Healthcare & Life Sciences Practice, looks at how Microsoft and other tech firms are changing the healthcare landscape.

By Gilbert J. Carrara, MD
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To anyone who thinks Microsoft is not looking to become a healthcare provider – think again. On April 13 Microsoft spent $20 billion to acquire Nuance Communications, a speech recognition company, in the company’s largest acquisition since the $26 billion purchase of LinkedIn. The Nuance acquisition provides tremendous insight into Microsoft’s healthcare and AI strategy.

Microsoft stated that it acquired Nuance to support the expansion of healthcare offerings for its cloud products. It is widely known that Nuance is already integrated into electronic health record (EHR) companies like Epic and Cerner. Its AI products are tailored to the clinical setting: They include a virtual assistant that integrates into patient health records and enables multi-party conversation transcription service in hospitals and large physician practices, as well as a deep learning language model that is able to convert voice dictation to structured notes that can be added to a patient’s health record.

When you step back and look at trends in the healthcare space over the last few years, it’s clear that technology companies are changing the landscape. Amazon bought the pharmacy PillPack in 2019 and is planning to expand its telehealth services. Apple is selling its devices to providers and offering health apps for iPhone and Apple Watch that allow patients to download their personal health records directly into EHRs at their physicians’ offices and hospitals. And finally there’s Google’s $2.1 billion acquisition of Fitbit, which is working with Ascension and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center on an EHR search tool and consumer-facing medical records app.

Asked about opportunities for growth related to the Nuance acquisition in a recent conversation on CNBC, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella stated that the purchase will “double our total addressable market as Microsoft going forward. Not only will we be able to serve all the providers with everything we do…but Nuance will be able to still help us deliver these AI-first solutions for doctors and radiologists and overall clinical decision support in partnership with the rest of the ecosystem.” If that isn’t Microsoft laying out their healthcare strategy, I don’t know what is.

More Blog Posts by Gilbert J. Carrara, MD

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