Len Klie

Nuance Goes Deeper into the Big Blue

Nuance Communications today announced another partnership with IBM that sees the two companies working together to advance speech technologies. This latest venture involves natural language processing and clinical language understanding for the healthcare industry. It is certainly a far reaching effort, as there are 2 billion patient healthcare documents dictated every year in the United States alone. And most of these records are created  in a free-form, unstructured format.

The press release that the two companies put out about this deal quotes an IBM executive  saying the outcome of this joint project will improve patient outcomes and to help lower the cost of healthcare. I can understand how it will improve patient care, but am still hazy on how it will impact healthcare costs. As the medical profession moves to more electronic records creation and storage, I think we are more likely to see costs rise—at least in the short term—as practitioners run out to get new software and hardware to digitize their files.

Having two powerhouses like IBM and Nuance working together is bound to create some ripples, and I can only speculate that this is a harbinger of more work between IBM and Nuance. Nuance already is the 800-pound gorilla in the speech industry room, and the company will only grow in size as a result of its continued work with Big Blue. After all, Nuance already bought most of IBM’s speech patents, and has partnered with IBM on other NLP endeavors. Where will it end?