Why Baptist Health Joined Nuance’s Precision Imaging Network

Last week, Nuance added Kentucky-based Baptist Health and Pennsylvania-based Einstein Healthcare to its precision imaging network, a platform that allows healthcare providers to adopt AI-powered diagnostic imaging tools at the point of care.

Nuance, which was acquired by Microsoft last year, produces speech recognition and AI software for healthcare organizations.

Joining the network means that radiologists can deploy AI tools faster and more efficiently, according to Brett Oliver, Baptist’s chief medical information officer. He said the network will help radiologists adopt a broader range of algorithms, which means they will have an easier time figuring out which tools make the biggest impact on patient care.

To an outsider, the amount of time it takes for a health system to adopt a new AI tool might seem “ridiculous,” Oliver said in an interview. This is due to all the vetting that tools must undergo — hospitals must get legal contracts reviewed, ensure that the tool stores data securely, determine its compatibility with various interfaces, and so on.

“One of my colleagues will say, ‘Hey, I saw this product and I really think it can help me with 3D mapping out my brain surgeries. I just think it’s gonna make for better outcomes.’ Traditionally I would have to say ‘Okay, let’s go through the product, see some screenshots and maybe have somebody who’s used it before talk to us.’ It’s a six to nine month process, and it’s expensive,” he said.

More than 12,000 healthcare facilities have joined Nuance’s precision imaging network to speed up that process for physicians. The network is designed to give radiologists and other specialty physicians access to an ecosystem of third-party AI-powered diagnostic tools that they can embed right into their workflows — without having to build and maintain the infrastructure that is otherwise needed to adopt these products. The platform can be integrated into EHRs, Nuance’s PowerScribe reporting product and other clinical systems.

The network was launched about a year ago, and it is powered by the Microsoft Azure cloud platform.

“We’ve got a great relationship with Nuance, and we have PowerShare and PowerScribe already implemented and ready to go. There was very little technical setup to get to this point, and start our process with [the precision imaging network.] But it was really just the platform approach that sold me — we’ve got to be able to plug and play some of these algorithms more readily if we’re going to advance things quickly,” Oliver said.

Baptist is a nine-hospital health system with more than 1,500 providers and a network of more than 2,000 independent physicians. The health system is hoping that joining Nuance’s precision imaging network will improve the accuracy of the treatment it provides to patients, especially those with multiple sclerosis and dementia, Oliver said.

For example, AI imaging tools can look at scans sequentially at the point of care and determine the percentage for which plaque formation is either up or down. This can help neurologists treating dementia or MS make more informed decisions about switching patients’ medications.

It’s important that those types of tools be implemented more broadly in a quick manner, Oliver said adding that the faster the algorithms get implemented, the faster they can start improving clinical quality across the health system.

Photo: Darunechka, Getty Images

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