Teladoc doubles down on Microsoft partnership to bring AI, voice tech into telehealth visits

Teladoc is ramping up its investment in AI to infuse innovation into its telehealth solution for hospitals.

The largest telehealth company is tapping into its two-year partnership with tech giant Microsoft to integrate AI and ambient clinical documentation tech into its Solo virtual care platform, the two companies announced Tuesday.

Teladoc and Microsoft teamed up in 2021, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, to streamline the technology and administrative processes associated with virtual care and integrate the company's Solo enterprise platform within Microsoft Teams.

The company is taking that collaboration a step further and leveraging Microsoft's 2022 acquisition of speech recognition tech company Nuance to bring Azure OpenAI Service, Azure Cognitive Services and the Nuance Dragon Ambient eXperience into its virtual care solution for hospitals and health systems.

Shares of Teladoc, which have taken a hit in the market in the past year, popped Tuesday morning, moving 6% higher pre-market action, according to MarketWatch.

Teladoc executives say the integration of Microsoft AI tools will better support the clinical workforce and minimize administrative burden by automating clinical note-taking during virtual and in-patient care.

Doctors are drowning in electronic paperwork. Providers and tech companies are increasingly turning to AI to help ease the heavy burden of clinical documentation that doctors and clinicians face every day.

One study by the American Medical Association found that for every hour physicians spend in exam room visits with patients, they spend nearly two hours on electronic health record and desk work during office hours

Studies show that administrative burdens are directly linked to rising rates of physician burnout. Clinicians face those same administrative burdens during virtual care visits as well.

By 2025, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services predicts that there will be a nationwide shortage of 90,000 physicians worsened by professional burnout related to the demands of electronic paperwork.  

"Administrative burden and staff shortages are major reasons why clinicians are leaving the profession,” said Vidya Raman-Tangella, chief medical officer at Teladoc Health, in a statement. “We are focused on using AI to reassert and build the doctor-patient relationship at a time when technology frequently does the opposite. We are proud to partner with Microsoft and Nuance to break new ground.”

Addressing physician burnout and clinical documentation burden are top priorities for Teladoc's hospital and health system customers, noted a Teladoc Health senior leader involved in the partnership.

The pandemic saw a huge shift to virtual care and telehealth that has now created a new hybrid environment where providers have to balance in-patient services with virtual visits.

"The reengineering of healthcare today is happening on the virtual care side. People are rethinking how we get work done. If these tools are only available for in-person visits, that's a huge shame," the senior leader said. "We're working together with Microsoft and we're applying leading-edge tools to virtual care and enabling as much innovation to occur during virtual health as elsewhere."

Teladoc Health sees opportunities to use its technology to alleviate workforce burden and improve patient care, particularly with increased access and hybrid workflows like virtual nursing which enables experienced remote nursing staff to perform nursing responsibilities that do not require physical touch, executives said. This frees up bedside nurses to focus on hands-on patient care and improving staff satisfaction.

When integrated into the Teladoc Health Solo platform, Nuance DAX will automatically document patient encounters at the point of care for final clinician review and signoff. Clinicians can then interact with patients more naturally and conversationally without the need to look away to type notes during a telehealth visit, executives said.

Teladoc also is testing out generative AI for its in-house providers. The company also announced Tuesday that Teladoc Health Medical Group will get the benefit of generative AI tools by using Nuance's latest voice-enabled medical scribe application integrated with OpenAI's GPT-4. 

Back in March, Microsoft-owned Nuance unveiled Dragon Ambient eXperience (DAX) Express, marking what it said was the first fully automated clinical documentation application to combine conversational and ambient AI with the advanced reasoning and natural language capabilities of OpenAI’s GPT-4.

Big tech companies are in an AI arms race as they rush to integrate the technology, specifically large language models, into their products and services.

Health IT behemoth Epic also is collaborating with Microsoft and its speech recognition subsidiary to integrate DAX Express into its electronic health record software. The companies said the integration of DAX Express into Epic workflows will act as a copilot to help cut down on clinicians' administrative workloads.

Nuance's DAX Express will first roll out for Teladoc's general medicine doctors for urgent care visits, the senior leader told Fierce Healthcare, and then will be rolled out across the entire medical group.

"Adding Nuance DAX and DAX Express into the Teladoc ecosystem represents the type of collaborative innovation needed to serve the rapidly changing needs of clinicians' and patients across the care continuum,” said Diana Nole, executive vice president and general manager of healthcare at Nuance, in a statement. “It addresses the pressing challenge of reducing clinicians’ administrative workloads in some of the most demanding and dynamic care environments in healthcare."