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The rising tide of a flexible, mobile workforce

Workplace flexibility is becoming an expectation among today’s employees, fueled by mobile apps, cloud computing, and other productivity solutions. Companies who accept this rising tide will be better prepared to attract and maintain the best talent. Is your organization ready?
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Workplace flexibility was once a cutting-edge idea, differentiating new, trendy companies from the pack. Today it’s proving to be an essential recruitment tool, a factor that many organizations need to consider to attract and maintain the best talent.

In a recent New York Times article, employees say they are willing to accept lower-paying jobs in exchange for the ability to work when and where they choose. Moreover, the best employees, those that have the leverage to negotiate, are leaving traditional employers to build careers where they have greater flexibility.  For a younger generation entering the workforce, who do not remember a time without the immediate access mobile tools provide, the idea of being tied down to a desk from 9-5 doesn’t compute.

The same article also references a Harvard Business School/Boston Consulting Group Study. The survey of 11,000 workers and 6,500 business leaders asks what factors they think will impact the future of work. It found that a majority of respondents say employees expect flexible, autonomous work, better work-life balance, and remote working. However, only 30% believe that their company is prepared for this shift.

Smartphones have put computers in our pockets, proving that almost anything can get done on-the-go, and there is no turning back. Fortunately, productivity solutions, like mobile dictation apps, give many of these employees who want or need flexibility, the power to work wherever they want.  Is your organization ready?

Empower mobile productivity

Give your mobile workforce the power to get paperwork and other documentation done wherever their job takes them, with Dragon Anywhere Group, the cloud-based professional-grade mobile dictation solution for iOS and Android smartphones and tablets.

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Gearing up for IACP 2019

As we get ready for IACP 2019, we look at why departments need better methods and technologies to help improve incident reporting, and how powerful new police reporting solutions will help shape police paperwork in the future.
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In September, my team and I start planning for our massive event schedule. The International Association of Chiefs of Police annual conference (IACP 2019) in Chicago this coming October is one of them. This year’s theme, in particular, “Shaping the Future of Law Enforcement,” caught my attention.

As we look at advancements in technology, one area that is gaining momentum is automated solutions to help with police incident reporting. Like other industries that rely on extensive documentation, law enforcement has begun to realize that the future-state of reporting can’t be only a manual one.

There is no room or space for inaccurate, incomplete, or delayed reports for these professionals. Departments who understand this recognize that they can no longer rely on manual documentation methods.  They need their officers to create incident reports faster to meet prosecution deadlines, and to capture as much detail and accuracy of each civilian encounter as possible.

Officers, who write reports in the field or are hunched over the MDT to enter data or lookup license plates, need better ways to stay heads-up and situationally aware. If departments do not address these problems, it can eat away at productivity, reduce community visibility, and, in general, contribute to risk – from burnout to impeding officer safety.

It will serve departments well to look at better methods and technologies to help improve incident reporting, and robust new police reporting solutions will shape how police paperwork gets done in the future.

If you plan to attend IACP 2019, stop by our booth. I’d love to chat with you about the future.

Join us at IACP 2019

Attending IACP Conference 2019? Stop by the Nuance Dragon booth (#3426) and learn how we can help make incident reporting faster, safer and complete – by voice.

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Healthcare and the wisdom of people around us

Successfully improving patient experiences, population health, and healthcare costs requires more than great technology and innovative products – it demands a larger sense of purpose that keeps you focused on what matters most.
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Whenever any of us face important personal or professional challenges it’s vital to have clear sense of purpose to guide our decisions and actions. One’s sense of purpose is informed by our own experiences and by the wisdom of people around us.

Sometimes that wisdom comes from the uncluttered mind of a child.

This crayon drawing was created by a 7-year-old girl following a visit to her pediatrician. It shows her colorful recollections of sitting on the exam table, her older sister, and her mother holding her baby sister seated nearby, and the doctor at the computer with his back to her and everybody else in the room. It was first shared by New Jersey pediatrician Dr. Thomas Murphy in 2011. The drawing resonated with so many physicians that it has since been widely shared on social media and appeared in numerous publications including The Wall Street Journal, the Journal of the American Medical Association, and MIT Technology Review. The picture vividly captures the frustration that many physicians feel about the administrative and reporting burdens imposed to document exams, and to get reimbursed for their services.

Relentless paperwork is not the reason why physicians took out huge education loans and trained for so many years. They did it because they are passionate about caring for and healing people. Doctors are doing their best with to manage all the required documentation and other administrative requirements. They now spend about twice as much time entering or re-entering data into computers than they do interacting with patients. That’s causing what the president of the World Medical Association has called a “pandemic of physician burnout,” with 51% of physicians reporting frequent or constant feelings of burnout.

Burnout is a serious barrier to improving the cost and availability of healthcare services. A study published in the May 2019 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine reported that physician turnover and reduced clinical hours attributable to burnout costs of $4.6 billion, or about $7,600 per physician, in the United States each year. It also stated that burnout can effectively be reduced with moderate levels of investment. In other words, burnout reduction programs that include new AI-powered systems designed to help physicians care for patients instead of clicking and tapping away at computers can pay big dividends in the quality, cost, and availability of healthcare. AI and speech-driven Ambient Clinical Intelligence (ACI) will drive those improvements by automatically documenting medical visits and adding clinical insights in real-time while the doctor stays focused on the patient.

You can use the crayon drawing to illustrate our purpose at Nuance Healthcare as we create AI-powered and speech-driven Ambient Clinical Intelligence solutions to improve healthcare experiences, quality, outcomes, and costs. At Nuance, we’re bringing those innovations directly into the healthcare workflow to tackle the “Quadruple Aim” of improving the patient experience, improving population health, reducing costs, and improving the work lives of healthcare providers. The first three goals address a wide range of systemic challenges. Improving provider experiences is the key to making the other three happen. That’s why Nuance is focused on delivering solutions that automate time-consuming routine tasks, eliminate inefficiencies, and bring clinical intelligence and decision-support data to clinicians at the point of care.

Wisdom from my 10-year-old self

I feel fortunate to have been instilled at a young age with a clear sense of purpose in using technology to help others. That began when I was a 10-year-old kid in my dad’s lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). My father, Nat Durlach, oversaw the Sensory Communications Group lab, conducting research to help people with vision and hearing impairments. I vividly remember spending a lot of time running around there, sitting in on discussions about topics I didn’t understand at all. But the content informed my purpose and work today helping our team create AI and ACI solutions for clinicians.

What’s more important than ensuring that the people caring for us and our loved ones are cared for by giving them time, energy, and expertise to make a difference in that care? That defines our purpose as we build AI-powered solutions that help healthcare providers have more satisfying and rewarding work experiences and happier and healthier lives. We strive to focus on what matters.

At Nuance, we believe technology should empower life, not distract from it. That is why we build systems that take obstacles out of the way to help people focus on what matters. To help doctors spend more time with patients and less on paperwork. To help drivers get there safely. And to help every customer service call, comment, and text make life a little easier. We use our talents to enable people to amplify theirs. We give them back their time and voice and empower them to do what they do best, better. Because we don’t make technology that stands in the way of what matters; we make technology that puts what matters in focus.

Focus on What Matters is a blog series by Pete Durlach, Senior Vice President of Healthcare Strategy, and recognized Voice and AI thought leader. In this blog series, Peter boils down the facts and fiction surrounding AI in healthcare into the essence of what technology can and should do.

Photo credit: DRAWING BY AG, AGE 7, COPYRIGHT THOMAS G. MURPHY MD 2011

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Nuance named leader in 2019 Forrester Wave: Conversational AI for Customer Service

Another WIN for Nuance AI: differentiated for artificial intelligence (AI), voice and speech engines, approach to human/AI blending, omni-channel delivery capabilities and security and authentication
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Nuance has been focused on pioneering the Conversational AI landscape for decades. Today the world’s biggest companies are using our solutions to engage their customers, and, in any given moment, somewhere someone in the world is talking to a Nuance-enabled conversational system. Our mission since inception has been to change the way humans and machines interact, and today that mission lives on in our laser focus on making it easier for brands to engage their customers and allowing customers to talk to brands as they do their friends.

That’s why being named a leader in Forrester’s 2019 Conversational AI for Customer Service New Wave matters to us. In our opinion, it means we are achieving our goal of pushing the industry forward through powerful innovation – bringing our customers the conversational AI they need to deliver engaging and personalized experiences across all the channels their customers and prospects engage – outpacing others who are beginning to enter our space.

Nuance has been consistently recognized by Forrester for its conversational AI capabilities with this report coming on the heels of the firm identifying Nuance as one of the top emerging voice and chat companies in the “The New Wave™: Conversational Computing Platforms, Q2 2018” report and ranking Nuance #1 in the June 2017 report, The Top 10 Chatbots For Enterprise Customer Service. This third-party validation adds to our impressive list of accolades including our technology being ranked #1 numerous times by Opus Research and our customer deployments winning more than 40 Stevie Awards for Sales and Customer Service – more than any competitor in the conversational AI for customer service space.

We see this year’s New Wave as being critical as it evaluated a wider set of criteria beyond just conversational tools and digital chatbots. We believe this Wave looked at the future of the industry – where conversational AI must be channel-less, intelligent, secure and enterprise-grade. It also must interweave with human experts, an area in which Nuance shined in the report, with Forrester citing us as “[outstripping] rivals” with our tools for human agents.

To view the full report please visit: https://www.nuance.com/omni-channel-customer-engagement/landing/analyst-report/forrester-wave-2019-conversational-AI.html. And here’s to our continued trailblazing to a truly intelligent, conversational future.

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Read more of Forrester’s latest Wave report

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What’s your documentation problem?

While the root of all documentation problems can’t be solved with speech recognition technology alone, it can go a long way to help improve business outcomes, from productivity, efficiency and costs, to reducing paperwork burnout.
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For decades, Nuance has led the charge towards conversational AI with our voice and language innovations. We began this long journey with the introduction of Dragon speech recognition, the first software system that intelligently transcribed words into text. Today, while we don’t anticipate our solutions will completely replace manual documentation processes, they can certainly help solve some of the problems associated with them.

Financial Services is a great example. With an increased focus on new regulations and governance, a client-base that is turning to automated tools like robo-advisors, to just the simple increase in time and costs of administrative tasks like paperwork, financial firms seek new solutions to work better and compete in a changing marketplace.

More financial advisors, for example, are using speech recognition technology to document client interactions faster and more accurately, and with greater specificity, all in their quest to mitigate compliance risk and improve efficiency. Add in the need to deliver better service with more agile tools – ones that help refocus time back to clients, and voice and language solutions fit the bill.

Law enforcement is another example. Officers, who are required to document details of each incident, are mired in reporting deadlines. Oftentimes, this means they are filing incident reports at the station, while on patrol or after-hours. None of these scenarios are ideal for police work and can cause a host of problems: sitting at a desk means less time spent within the community; being heads-down in the patrol vehicle is a risk of an accident, or worse, ambush; and after-hours reporting eats away at personal time and increases burnout.

Here too, speech recognition can take away the distractions associated with heavy reporting and documentation requirements. Hundreds of departments now use powerful new police reporting tools to create faster and more complete incident reports, while also improving officer safety and community visibility.

While the root of all documentation problems can’t be solved with speech recognition technology alone, it can go a long way to help solve the ones associated with manual processes – from improving productivity and efficiency, increasing community visibility and customer service, to reducing paperwork and burnout.

Solve documentation problems

Help your organization improve manual, disconnected documentation processes for improved productivity, efficiency, costs and employee satisfaction.

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Improving compliance and client service in the era of digital transformation

The financial services industry is immersed in digital transformation – so much so that “fintech” has emerged as a common term among its professionals. As firms and advisors embrace new technology, it’s becoming even more important to use these tools to manage both back office tasks like documentation and compliance, with front-of-the house activities, such as improving client service.
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In a recent blog, I discussed how the financial services industry needs to rise to face the challenge of digital transformation, all while trying to remain competitive, maintain compliance and improve the customer experience.  During a recent meeting with my team, this topic came up again.

We met to discuss our presence at the upcoming 2019 FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority) Conference, whose members meet annually to address topics centering around regulations within the industry. While FINRA addresses back-office tasks, like how to improve compliance, embracing digital innovation can also help support front-end activities too, like customer engagement; those “soft-skills” advisors need to develop, such as communication, that will add more value to their services.

Technology can play an important role in compliance, especially when it comes to producing accurate and detailed documentation. But in many instances, time spent creating documents and handling day-to-day administration tasks is time away from clients—impeding financial professionals from cultivating the client/advisor relationship. In fact, a recent study found that 89% of financial services professionals say that heavy documentation demands limit the amount of valuable “face time” with clients.

New voice and language solutions, like speech recognition, are just one of the many tools financial advisors have embraced to improve efficiency. The ability to document three times faster by voice allows more time to focus on what matters most – building strong client relationships, so they can deliver better, more personalized service.

If you are planning to attend the 2019 FINRA Conference, May 15-17, 2019 in Washington, D.C, we will be demonstrating the ways hundreds of financial services firms are leveraging speech recognition today. Visit here to learn more.

Gain control of financial documentation

Discover how to boost documentation productivity, while improving compliance and customer service – all by voice.

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Designing effortless customer journeys

What is it like for your customers when they don’t get the easy path? With the myriad of paths a customer conversation may take, good conversational design is a must-have for any customer care application today. It takes specialized skills to create customer journeys that don’t encounter “secret squirrel routes”. It takes Pathfinder.
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Squirrel!

Last weekend I got invited to check out a new restaurant in one of the hipster neighborhoods in Seattle. Given that I don’t live in the hipster scene, I typed in the address on my map app and hit the road. What came next was an overly complicated journey with difficult-to-navigate streets, hard-to-cross, busy intersections and what I would call a “secret squirrel route” that left me feeling more stressed than supported. It seems that the map app focused on speed, rather than convenience. And while the map app did its job, for me, it illustrated how the quickest, fastest path isn’t always the best path.

 

What is it like for your customers when they don’t get the easy path?

What may seem like the best route to the people designing your applications may not be the easiest or preferred route for your customers. In customer service, the end point on the “map” may be paying a bill, or rebooking a flight, or filing a claim. Like an inefficient map, inefficient customer service can lead to consumer frustration. On the other hand, easy, effortless, convenient customer service can lead to brand loyalty. When your customers contact you, are they encountering an inefficient chatbot or complicated maze of menus, or are you providing an easy, intelligent engagement that leads to task success, customer satisfaction, trust and loyalty?

 

Interacting like a human takes work

With the myriad of paths a customer conversation may take, good conversational design is a must-have for any customer care application today. And while there is a plethora of technologies available today that can provide question-and-answer capability with ease, building effective conversational applications that can interact like a human requires specialized skills. Conversational design isn’t simply accessing AI technology – it’s an expert process of creating experiences that are human-centric, social and interactive, grounded in communication principles, regardless of mode of interaction.

Effective conversational design that can handle the complexity of human interaction takes work – a lot of it. Today, the process involves subject matter experts sitting down with conversational designers to script paths according to business processes. It’s a highly manual, time-consuming and often lengthy process, prone to human error. Using our map app analogy, imagine the many ways you might be instructed by a human to get to a new restaurant across town – “Don’t take the freeway”, “Avoid the toll road by going this way”, “Take the scenic route”, or “I go down the back alley to save time”. Inevitably, there are missed turns along the way, or preferences that are anecdotal that may not deliver the easiest route.

 

The best path forward

As consumer demands (and expectations) for intelligent conversational applications increase, organizations must find more efficient and effective ways to ensure high quality conversational design. One path forward to accelerate conversational design is a new category of conversational tools – Conversation Accelerator Tools. These tools allow organizations to leverage the terabytes of data they already accumulate today, ingest the data to discover the most helpful answers to commonly asked questions and potential problem areas, and automate the build of effective “conversation maps” for their customer care applications.

This data-driven approach results in more natural and accurate scripts, opening the door for more organizations to deploy highly intelligent assistants that consumers will love, while also providing insights that lead to opportunities for strengthening customer relationships.

No tool today can completely displace the critical need for conversational design expertise – but it sure beats the secret squirrel route approach. In the coming months, Nuance will be launching our own automated dialog design tool, Pathfinder. To learn more about Nuance technologies, visit here

 

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Learn more about Nuance Pathfinder, coming soon!

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Creating a bionic contact center agent

Contact center agents are still irreplaceable when it comes to customer engagement. Instinct and context are abilities unique to humans, but artificial intelligence can augment those skills, creating a bionic contact center agent that accelerates the Enterprise’s digital transformation journey.
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“Bionics” describes technology that is inspired by nature – similar to AI, which describes the ability of a computer to act like a human. When talking about bionic agents we don’t mean contact center agents with prosthetic arms that make them type faster, or any other physical modification of the human body. We are talking about agents being augmented and supported by artificial intelligence. What could that look like?

First, AI can find patterns in huge amounts of data much faster than any human could. Which means, by leveraging AI, we augment our own ability to gather insights or knowledge. With contact center agents, AI can listen in to conversations between customer and agent, analyze what they talk about and recommend next best actions, upsell and cross-sell opportunities or the answer to a support question – all in real time. Today, agents either need to know a lot of details about the organization’s offering or to search through script trees, knowledgebases or manuals to find answers. In answer to this, AI can search for the agent, allowing them to focus on the customer, not on the information retrieval.

Continuing the thought about patterns in data, every person has their own voice identity. Similar to a fingerprint, the way we talk, the frequency of our voice and several other identifiers are unique to every human. AI is capable of distinguishing between different voices, even identifying if the voice is human or robotic. This technology, called voice biometrics, enables agents to authenticate customers much faster, without asking the usual three identification questions like “What was your first pet’s middle name?”. This makes the authentication process more conversational and less frustrating for the customer and the agent, and it reduces fraud.

In general, looking into conversations and understanding what’s going on, finding opportunities to improve the experience and sharing useful insights with agents in simple ways such as indicators in the agent desktop, will help make the agents’ work life easier, will empower them and will strengthen their confidence while assisting customers. All of this helps with agent satisfaction – and we all know, if we like to go to work, we are happier.

But think a step further. If your agent is happy, if AI technology supports them by getting answers faster to the customer, if their tools highlight what they should pay attention to instead of guessing and if they feel more secure when asking for private information, it will also ensure that your customers are satisfied.

Because happy agent = happy customer.

Learn more about what Nuance can do to empower your agents.

Nuance agent-facing technologies utilize artificial intelligence to ensure your agents can focus on what really matters—solving your customers' inquiries.

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Why RCS Business Messaging might be the next big thing

Step into the mind of your typical customer… There are so many messaging channels that can be used for communication with friends, family and businesses. Here is why RCS Business Messaging might be a new favorite for innovative customer engagement.
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I’m dreaming of a world where it is easy to use my mobile phone to connect with a brand wherever I am. No fuss, just picking it up and asking my question or doing whatever needs to be done. Just to be clear, I don’t contact the companies I do business with on a daily basis – usually only if there’s something wrong or if I need to update my address or upgrade my plan. The issue is that I have a life – like most customers – which means I usually can’t call between 9am and 4pm or, if I have a chance to make that call, I can’t wait for half an hour. Nor do I have the desire to download every app for every retailer, credit card company or insurance company just to connect with them once a year.

I’ve always assumed that it is a good thing that I’m one of those customers who don’t call for every little thing or just to talk to someone because I’m bored. So, why do I feel punished when I actually have an issue and need to connect with them? I would really prefer if there would be an easier way to work with businesses – big and small. I thought that messaging might be the holy grail for solving this problem. Turns out it did make things better, but not perfect. Now I have Facebook Messenger, Twitter, WhatsApp AND all the other apps to connect with organizations.

 

What is Rich Communication Services (RCS)?

In my journey of looking for alternatives, I heard about Rich Communication Services. Rich Communication Service, or RCS for short, is a carrier-enabled, text-based communication. It’s touted as the replacement for SMS and enables a variety of new features. Currently, RCS is still in its early stages and only available for specific phones or carriers. This is especially true of the business version, since it is not available through every carrier yet. However, companies like Google are working hard to get it to a point where everyone can use it – I can’t wait for this to happen!

How will it help me?

First of all, once readily available, RCS will be native to the phone’s default messaging app. (It’s the one app that allows me to connect with anyone.) RCS will enable not just simple back and forth messages, it will also show me suggested answers, so I won’t need to type as much. I’ll be able to easily send images, look at maps, schedule appointments and so much more; and – because it’s basically SMS on steroids – I will be able to receive push notifications to which I can respond. No more receiving an alert and then trying to call the company to figure out what’s next. I will simply continue on and solve the issue in ONE SINGLE CHANNEL. I’ll even pay for items, using whichever payment system I want, in that same channel.

I’m excited to follow the journey of Google and others as they sign up more carriers and more vendors. I envision a day when RCS Business Messaging allows all customers to use one messaging app to engage on the go and start and end a transaction without ever leaving this channel. A true dream come true!

Learn more about RCS Business Messaging

Nuance is looking into RCS as an opportunity for advanced messaging without limitations to simplify customer engagement for organizations and consumers.

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Q&A: How our latest internal hackathon brought innovation to non-profits

We rise by lifting others. That’s one of the reasons why our latest internal hackathon Innovation Challenge took on a different mold – one geared towards leveraging employee’s innovative drive and creativity for social good.
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Nuance SS11 Innovation Challenge

We rise by lifting others. Robert Ingersoll said this a long time ago and it still rings true. And it’s one of the reasons why we ran a different kind of internal hackathon from our usual product-focused event. The SS11 Innovation Challenge for Social Good leveraged Nuance employee’s creativity for social good while empowering them to create relevant solutions. It allowed them to target real needs and problems from non-profit organizations that could be solved with Nuance’s technology. Girl Scouts, a Performing Arts Ticketing Service, an organization for at-risk high-potential students and a political campaign are just a few of the nonprofits for which our teams designed. And, it was fun! Eduardo Olvera, Senior Manager, User Interface Design of the Cognitive Innovation Group led the event with leader Guy Hoovler, Senior Director Professional Services of the Enterprise Division. Here’s what they had to say:

 

Why hold an Innovation Challenge for social good?

Guy Hoovler: Innovation challenge events demonstrate our division’s support for innovative ideas, committing significant time and resources to support our employees’ innovative and competitive initiatives. Incorporating the “social good” element this time sparked creativity in a number of the teams who were motivated by the challenge to solve real world problems, using our tech in a way that did something more than provide a bank balance.

 

Nuance SS11 Innovation Challenge

 

What is the impact of the event and the ideas? How will this help non-profits?

Eduardo Olvera: To facilitate team-building and cross-training within the Enterprise division while making the team’s ideas and solution relevant by tying them to real world problems. Non-profits benefit because the nature of their problems makes them suitable to be solved with technology.

Nuance teams built innovations for nonprofits

 

What was the most exciting part of the event?

Guy: Seeing the excitement and energy the teams brought to their presentations, especially while watching some of the teams execute live tech demos that actually worked!

Eduardo: For me, it was the response we received from participants, supporters and organizers. We had a very successful event, with 9 total teams with over 40 participants, all of which made it to the final line. We received support from upper management, directors and managers, local liaisons, subject matter experts, IT specialist, facilities administrators, human resources and legal staff. This event also marked many ‘firsts’ in the history of Innovation Challenges: the first Enterprise challenge that combined teams (CIG + PS), multiple locations, a curated list of projects teams chose from, an emphasis on social good, a platform used for team’s development, flexibility across a larger development period, idea checkpoints and SME office hours.

 

Nuance SS11 Innovation Challenge

 

What does innovation mean to you?

Eduardo: Innovation is the application of creative processes and ideas in novel and useful ways that add value and solve real world problems. The biggest mistake I see is people not realizing innovation is bigger than a product or technology platform, which means companies tend to not put the required level of support required to make it happen and then grow.

Guy: Innovation involves rethinking both the problem and the solution and implementing what is needed to fill in the gaps. I find things to be most innovative when they illustrate how we’ve been focused on the wrong questions.

 

Why is innovation important for not only Nuance, but for the greater community?

Eduardo: Because those companies, organization and communities that truly understand innovation, install strategies around it and execute it well, are the ones that achieve and sustain long-term success while at the same time keeping their employees, members and volunteers feeling satisfied, fulfilled, productive and excited about their personal and professional future.

Guy: Innovation keeps our minds agile – whether we do it ourselves or appreciate it when done by others.  Seeing and doing innovation both serve to break us out of today’s complacency and get us thinking in a constructive context about what happens next.

Nuance SS11 Innovation Challenge

 

Needless to say, it was a tight (and impressive) competition. In the end, the winning team decided to donate their money to the Water Project, a non-profit working to end the water crisis and provide access to clean, safe, and reliable water across sub-Saharan Africa. We were honored to donate $1,000 to help them further their mission and our teams are looking forward to the next Challenge.

 

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Nuance SS11 Innovation Challenge

#WickedProud to celebrate diversity at Nuance and Boston Pride

I’ve been to Boston Pride about 25 times since moving to the area after college. Some years I’ve marched, some years I’ve cheered from the sidelines. This year, I was thrilled to march with Nuance alongside friends, family, and colleagues.
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Within the ranks of the Nuance group marching in the Boston Pride parade

June is Pride Month across the U.S., a time to celebrate the contributions, accomplishments, and spirit of the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer) community and its allies. In case you didn’t know, Pride Month honors the June 1969 Stonewall riots in Manhattan, the birth of the American gay rights movement.

Here at Nuance we recognize and celebrate our culture of inclusion and diversity within our walls and in the communities in which we dwell. We only get more creative and collaborative as a team when we honor different perspectives, experiences, and backgrounds.

This past weekend the LGBTQ Community at Nuance was thrilled to sponsor and participate at the Boston Pride parade and festival, 14 miles away from our corporate headquarters.

Nuance marches in the Boston Pride Parade on June 9

Nuance hits the streets during Boston Pride on June 9, 2018

A few dozen fellow employees, friends and family members donned our Nuance Pride t-shirts, waved our pride flags, and proudly carried our banner as we worked our way from Boston’s Back Bay, through the South End, over to Beacon Hill, and down to City Hall Plaza.

On a side note, we marched right in front of the very talented Boston Gay Men’s Chorus who played a looped recording of their acapella cover songs to save their voices for weekend performances. (If you want to know the lyrics to “Last Friday Night” by Katy Perry, just ask.)

a.Dave Seuss from Nuance with friends and family at Boston Pride

Yours truly (second from left) with friends and family

I’ve been to Boston Pride about 25 times since moving to the area after college. Some years I’ve marched, some years I’ve cheered from the sidelines. While the LGBTQ community nudged closer and closer to the mainstream with milestones like legalized gay marriage, Boston Pride parades filled with night clubs and activists have made room for high schools and universities, religious organizations, sports teams, and companies like Nuance.

Nuance co-marshal Pepper Fee and wife April

My inspiring co-marshal Pepper and her wife, April

Before joining Nuance last summer, I had never worked for a company that participated in Boston Pride or any outside LGBTQ event for that matter. This year was different. I had my friends, family and colleagues along with me every step of the way. It was an exceptional feeling and made me proud of each and every one of them.

Next up, we’ll sponsor and participate in Montreal Pride in August. Given my grandfather grew up nearby I may very well make the five hour drive and celebrate my big gay Québécois authentic self… proudly.

 

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Within the ranks of the Nuance group marching in the Boston Pride parade

The power of you. Multiplied.

Solving for healthcare’s toughest challenges requires more than technological innovation. This type of problem solving requires a deep understanding of our customers’ goals and the ability to combine that knowledge with technical expertise, innovation, and industry-wide partnerships. Across the care continuum, providers and healthcare executives are looking for new ways to amplify their efforts to make an even greater impact.
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Late last year, KLAS Research wrote about the three biggest challenges in healthcare IT: (1) interoperability and data acquisition; (2) provider engagement and burnout; and (3) the financial pressures of the cost of care. We all know there are many challenges that healthcare organizations struggle with every day.

At Nuance, we are working to reduce transcription costs by 100%, help providers spend 45% less time in clinical documentation and remove 80% of the clicks to retrieve EHR information. We are helping radiologists improve their productivity by 31%, and CFOs increase appropriate reimbursements by $45 million annually.

We listen closely to our customers, and then merge that input with engineering, product innovation, and implementation design. For us, it’s a synergistic, virtuous cycle in which technological advances emerge from solving problems. For example, 94% of users say Nuance technology helps them do their jobs better by improving the quality of their documentation, and helps them save more than 30 minutes every day. Radiologists are sharing their stories about how they’re reducing turnaround times and improving compliance efforts.

As we’ve envisioned a world where technology enhances the ability for clinicians to take care of their patients and doesn’t get in the way — we wanted and needed to find a powerful way to share these insights with you. And so, it’s no coincidence that we are launching our newest campaign: The power of you. Multiplied.

When you put our industry-leading technology and teams on your side, you can and will multiply your effectiveness, accuracy, efficiency, compliance, profitability, and patient outcomes. This campaign sheds light on how we are arming our customers with the right technological advancements and support to empower people to do more…to get more out of every patient encounter, every interaction with the EHR, and every day of life.

 

 

 

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Sorry, Team “Yanny” – AI says it’s “Laurel”

Is it Laurel, or is it Yanny? The audio clip that has divided the world has an answer – and according to Nuance researcher Nils Lenke, it’s backed by artificial intelligence.
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Back in 2015, the internet was in an uproar over the phenomenon known as “The Dress” – a seemingly innocuous photo of a black and blue (or was it white and gold?) dress that prompted experts to investigate the science behind human vision and color perception. This week, a new sensation has ignited another fiery debate.

While studying for an exam, a high school freshman found an audio clip for the world “laurel” on Vocabulary.com – except to her, it didn’t sound like “laurel” at all. The recording was posted to Reddit and chaos ensued. The sound bite left listeners astonished that they could hear something so entirely different than the person sitting next to them.

 

So, is it Laurel or Yanny? The audio clip that has divided the world finally has an answer. Well, another perspective at least. And this one is backed by artificial intelligence.

We used our Dragon platform, the speech recognition software behind many Intelligent Assistants in the car, on TVs, IoT devices, and beyond, to find out what it would make of the clip. The result was “Laurel,” without a doubt.

Nils Lenke, senior director of corporate research at Nuance, said: “Dragon hears ‘Laurel.’ Speech recognition technology today is based on artificial neural networks that are supposed to mimic the way the human brain works. We train these networks on thousands of hours of human speech, so it can learn how the phonemes – the smallest building blocks of language – are pronounced. But it is clearly not an exact copy of how we as humans hear and interpret sounds, as this example shows. So, we can all still feel “special”– especially those who hear ‘Yanny’!”

Artificial intelligence stands with Laurel. Maybe those of us in camp Yanny will be on the right side of technology for the next viral controversy.

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Three reasons to be positive about AI’s changes to medicine and healthcare

This year’s World Medical Innovation Forum is shaping and influencing how artificial intelligence (AI) and healthcare are converging to improve R&D, care delivery, patient engagement, population health and administration. A key takeaway from the Forum is that the power to realize the benefits of AI will come from in-workflow technology and our own individual engagement.
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artificial intelligence in healthcare

This week, I had the privilege of attending the World Medical Innovation Forum. This year’s Forum, of course, focused heavily on the advancements and opportunities of AI in healthcare, something in which we at Nuance are deeply invested.

From discussions around how ambient intelligence with real-time, AI-driven information and analytical recommendations offer an opportunity to improve clinical documentation, to the necessity that AI technology must fit into the everyday physician workflow, I walked away from the Forum with heightened optimism and an excitement borne of a deeper understanding for how we will realize the benefits of AI.

That excitement comes from seeing AI and healthcare not as an incomprehensible, complex mix of technology, science and market forces, but as something that is very much in our power to create, shape, use and direct.

AI gives us power; it amplifies our abilities to accomplish more.

The ultimate success of AI, however, will come from shifting our thinking – realizing that AI is not an abstraction happening to us, but instead something that is as personal, tangible and as much in our control as driving a car. Because the reality is that AI will be as regular and integral to our daily workflows and personal lives as a laptop, a phone or even a coffee maker are today. And, it will be driven by our needs and expectations for what we want it to do for us.

Overall, presenters at the Forum made it abundantly clear that AI already is changing medicine and healthcare—and that’s something we should be aware of and positive about. Here are three reasons why:

1. Population health management – Society wants to consume more healthcare than it wants to pay for, which has created cost pressures on the system that have the potential to constrain innovation. And yet, because AI depends on vast amounts of data, which healthcare institutions certainly have available, we can seize the opportunity to harness the power of this data and, with the right data training strategies, apply it to population health management.

2. Physicians can do more with less – Nuance has always focused on making clinicians more productive, getting more time back in the day to focus on patient care. Our AI-powered virtual assistant already features conversational capabilities that are a catalyst for change and advancement. But because AI is the greatest technology force of our time with the ability to help individuals achieve super-human results, even writing software that humans cannot write ourselves, (as NVIDIA’s Jensen Huang stated during his Fireside chat), so much more can be done. Another way to put it is that each of us can and will do so much more with AI.

3. A decade of advancement – We have only just begun to scratch the surface of what’s possible when we infuse AI-driven solutions. The next decade is an opportunity for extraordinary advancement. Dedicated research teams will not only reveal incremental innovation in this space, they have the responsibility to properly guide AI to do the right things, and great things. And when you consider the important work already happening with open, democratic AI platforms, as well as academic institutions, we all can look forward to what’s coming next, and how we can partner with these organizations to deliver on the promise of AI.

The future of AI is happening now. In healthcare, we can choose to ignore it, or we can adopt a bold ambition, focus on it and invest in it — today.

artificial intelligence in healthcare

A tribute to Stephen Hawking and his iconic voice

Stephen Hawking, the famous cosmologist and theoretical physicist, passed away last week at the age of 76. Like much of the world, I was fascinated by both his accomplishments and his iconic voice. Having spent my career in the Text-to-Speech field, I was lucky to have met Hawking once, working on his synthetic voice then and again years later, with Nuance.
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Stephen Hawking speaks famous words with his computer-generated text-to-speech voice

The famous cosmologist and theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking passed away last week. Apart from his scientific contributions, he was also a role model for people living with a disability. “Concentrate on things your disability doesn’t prevent you doing well, and don’t regret the things it interferes with,” he said in a 2011 interview with the New York Times, “Don’t be disabled in spirit.” Millions of people became familiar with his synthetic, computer-generated voice, which he began using after losing the ability to speak in 1985.

The synthetic voice he used for more than 30 years was generated by a circuit board named CallText 5010, made by a company called Speech Plus, which is now part of the Nuance family. Hawking originally owned three copies of CallText, but one board broke after it fell to the ground. Concerned that the hardware would break or fail to work in the future, Intel, who had started providing him with a PC and technical support, wanted to replace his hardware synthesizer with a software version. They didn’t want to risk leaving the scientist without his voice again.

When I was a postdoc at the Oregon Graduate Institute working on speech synthesis, I was contacted to help with the project. In the following months I borrowed Hawking’s spare CallText board and recorded 2,000 speech sounds called diphones with it (synthesis by concatenation of diphones was the dominant text-to-speech technology in those days.) When Professor Hawking was in Oregon for a lecture a few weeks later, I presented the new voice to him at his hotel room in downtown Portland. I connected it to a loudspeaker so he could hear the sample sentences I had prepared from his lectures read aloud. After a few minutes of silence (during which Hawking was typing), came the reply: “I like it. But more importantly, will my wife like it?”

That same evening, I attended his public lecture. I remember feeling a personal connection as he was presenting, and a sense of privilege to have been a part of his story, no matter how small. Hawking ultimately continued to use his original circuit board synthesizer during public appearances. After all, it was that voice that the world had come to recognize as the iconic Stephen Hawking; the new implementation just didn’t sound quite the same. Hawking’s synthesized voice was as much a part of him as our natural voices are of us.

 

 

In late 2017, we revisited a project first discussed a few years early: The project entailed Nuance working with Professor Hawking and his team, agreeing to provide him with a version of the source code of his TTS voice, which we had stored in an archive. The goal was to transition Hawking’s system to a modern, software version while maintaining the authenticity of his original voice. Unfortunately, he passed before we could complete our work together.

Hawking once wrote on his website, “I try to lead as normal a life as possible.” Ironically, there wasn’t all that much normal about him. His wit was unmatched. He once acknowledged that although he had a PhD, “women should remain a mystery.” He was a brilliant physicist, a renowned cosmologist, a respected professor, and a prolific author. He won countless awards and held thirteen honorary degrees. Hawking’s professional success was matched only by the strength and depth of his personal relationships. “It would not be much of a universe if it wasn’t home to the people you love,” Hawking once said. He will be deeply missed by his family, friends, colleagues, and the countless people he inspired in the universe he helped explore. It is a gift to all of us that even when he could not speak, Stephen Hawking never lost his voice.

 

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Stephen Hawking speaks famous words with his computer-generated text-to-speech voice

How the machines will adjust to us: A short story about “conversational AI” growing up

2018 is going to be an exciting year to witness the start of a huge leap into the area of conversational AI. Josefine Fouarge takes a look into how it has developed so far and where it's going very soon.
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For years we have been trained on how to interact with machines – how to use a mouse, what to click for a specific action, and maybe even how to write code in a variety of languages. But talking, gestures, or facial expressions are natural ways for us to communicate. Machines that can understand these nuances have only been subject to Hollywood interpretation so far.

“So far” are the key words here. Technology has evolved in a way that it can interpret the human language and draw a conclusion based on what was said or texted. The complex part here is not just the algorithm, though; it’s the ability to combine phonemes to words for speech recognition, letters to words for text recognition, and either one of them to meaning – and then react based on that. 2018 is going to be an exciting year to witness the start of a huge leap in that area, because today’s technology is already capable of engaging with humans in a conversational way.

 

Where do we start?

Where do we see conversational interfaces? Chatbots and virtual assistants are probably the most known example. Used in customer service scenarios, conversational interfaces can do a lot of things already. They can react to very specific scenarios like resetting a password, updating the address or helping with selecting a specific product. Usually, these can be found on a brand’s website, in their messaging and social channels and even in the IVR.

If you have used a smart speaker like the Amazon Echo before, then you have dealt with a machine that interprets your words into meaning for itself. For example, when you ask Alexa to play music it will analyze your request and then, as a result, start to play some tunes. Have you ever called a brand and it told you to simply ask a question instead of pressing “1”? That’s basically a virtual assistant with speech recognition.

 

What’s the next step?

There is a variety of conversational interfaces available, for example the ones that provide a list of items from which a user can pick; others react on specific keywords and can be used as a simple Q&A. The next step of these rather “simple-minded” versions is a conversational interface that is capable of handling all sorts of conversations, back and forth, without the need for human intervention. Today’s “state of the art” virtual assistant can disambiguate without a pick list, just by asking for the missing information.

 

That’s the goal.

The final, so far unsolved, stage is actual complex interactions. Something that could simulate a heated discussion, a brainstorming with a colleague, etc. Things that require a lot of external data or background information that influence the conversation. These are the areas on which Nuance is working, bringing automated conversations from a simple back and forth to an actual conversational tool that will allow you to augment your life.

To give you an idea of how this future could look, watch our vision of next generation omni-channel customer engagement.

 

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Is artificial intelligence healthcare’s new nervous system?

Faced with continued cost pressures, today’s healthcare executives need new ways to drive top- and bottom-line growth. Clinical documentation solutions, powered by artificial intelligence, can contribute to cost-reduction efforts, while having a positive impact on revenue generation, provider satisfaction, and burnout.
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The topic of cutting costs from the U.S. healthcare system rightfully garners a lot of attention. American consumers continue to grow concerned about the affordability of healthcare and health insurance—while healthcare spending is expected to grow 5.5% annually over the next decade as the population continues to age. From the provider perspective, healthcare systems face shrinking reimbursements, business transformation, and legislative uncertainty that are driving a relentless focus on cost reduction and the ability to generate additional revenue.

In fact, according to a recent survey from The Health Management Academy (“The Academy”), 90% of executives rank cost reduction as a “high or very high priority.” Moreover, almost all of the responding executives indicated that the priority level of cost reduction has increased in the last year. Respondents indicate that system-wide, they are focusing cost reduction efforts in the areas of labor, such as holding off on new hires and new positions; supply chain; and pharmacy, while remaining hesitant to cut costs in cybersecurity and IT including electronic medical records (EMR) implementations.

In addition, about one-third of respondents to The Academy’s survey indicate that generating additional revenue will have the greatest impact on their organization’s finances over the next five years.

As healthcare organizations face continued cost pressures, they are turning to the newest generation of clinical documentation technologies that rely on artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to help them realize financial improvements.

Let me give you some statistics: Nuance’s AI-powered solutions adapt to existing, natural workflows to improve productivity by up to 54%, and to free up about two hours per clinician, per shift. Productivity improvements certainly contribute to cost-reduction efforts. But more importantly, the extra time in a clinician’s day means spending more time with patients and less time on documentation, a combination that leads to greater satisfaction and potentially a positive impact on the mounting problem of provider burnout.

AI-powered solutions also make a more secure path to reimbursement achievable—from guaranteed case mix index (CMI) improvements to significant increases in Medicare admission reimbursement. For example, AI enables real-time clinical guidance to help providers capture patient stories more fully and accurately, and with this higher-quality documentation, it becomes much easier to receive appropriate reimbursements for the care provided.

We at Nuance expect AI-powered solutions to be among those strategies that produce the most value for health systems in the coming years—and we’re not alone. In a research report entitled “Artificial Intelligence: Healthcare’s New Nervous System,” Accenture indicates that the AI market is not only seeing “explosive growth,” but is estimated to generate $150 billion in annual savings for the U.S. healthcare economy by 2026.

It is truly an exciting time to be working in this space, and the conditions are right to make big moves that position the health systems for long-term success.

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2018 predictions: Five ways AI will make you love customer service this year

2018 will be all about effortless, meaningful conversations between brands and customers. Robert Weideman kicks off the year with five predictions on how AI will make you love customer service in 2018.
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1. Your voice will be your password

2017 was a record year for hacks of personal customer details. These breaches give fraudsters access to our identities including the answers to those annoying security questions. One thing the fraudsters can’t do much with? Voice data. And that is why banks and telcos are increasingly replacing security questions with biometrics.

With a few words of speech, voice biometrics can confirm you are who you say you are at accuracy and security levels better than pins, passwords and security questions. And it knows how to detect recordings from real, live speech – rendering the data useless to fraudsters in the case of a breach.

 

2. You will use a virtual assistant (VA) for customer service, and it will work.

Conversational AI breakthroughs have led to a new generation of VAs specific to your bank, your telco and your pizza ordering, all providing personalized, concierge-like service. In 2018, this generation of VAs will be made even more effective, through technology called HAVA (Human Assisted Virtual Assistant). HAVA adds a human-in-the-loop capability, first to help answer new questions the VA may not know, but more importantly to provide a learning loop that updates the VA’s “brain” in real time.

 

3. You will add a brand as your messaging “Friend” – and you will mean it.

In 2017, Facebook Messenger, Line, Kik and more added capabilities for their users to “friend” organizations and companies, and late in the year, Apple announced Apple Business Chat, which will do the same for Apple Messages. In 2018 you will start engaging brands in the same way you talk to friends – in your messaging app, through SMS and even inside your banking and telco apps. And AI will allow each brands’ VA engine to respond to you in a personalized way, referencing past engagements you have had across other channels.

 

4. Prediction will let brands anticipate your needs

Customer service creates a ton of data. In 2018 this data will be harnessed more than ever to fuel new AI engines. Predictive customer service will let brands anticipate what you need or may do, before you even know, by analyzing and detecting the patterns of billions of customer engagements over time.

 

5. The “800” number will enter early retirement

Digital customer engagement combined with mobile devices, tablets and data lines will lead to less calls. A lot less. In 2018 you will engage with a virtual assistant and if they can’t resolve an issue, you will be seamlessly texting with a live contact center agent. If the issue is really complicated and can’t be resolved through messaging, you still won’t call the 800 number. In 2018, that step will be integrated through advanced technologies like WebRTC and IVR-to-digital, allowing the contact center agent to connect with you by voice or video within the app, on your laptop, even through your TV screen or smart speaker.

Our omni-channel customer service solutions are leading the way in 2018

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