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Nuance and MModal jockey at 2015 AHIMA convention

As the ICD-10 transition captures attendees' attention at the AHIMA convention, Nuance and MModal, two medical speech recognition rivals, do battle.

NEW ORLEANS -- One of the biggest challenges Charlotte Barrett has faced as assistant vice president for health information integrity at the University of Miami Health System has been getting community physicians from newly acquired practices ready for ICD-10.

"There were the delays and then all of a sudden it was, 'What do we do now?'"  Barrett said during a breakfast panel of health information experts hosted during the 2015 AHIMA Convention and Exhibit by speech recognition software vendor Nuance Communications Inc. "They thought ICD-10 was never going to happen."

But the physicians paid more attention after learning that they could be dropped by their health plans if inpatient stays were too long or they weren't documenting severity of illness well enough, said Barrett, whose health system uses products and services from Nuance and MModal IP LLC.

SaaS model fuels new physician documentation product

Nuance -- which is based in Burlington, Mass., and employs a large healthcare division that sells medical versions of its Dragon speech recognition system -- used the annual get-together of the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) to unveil new products, such as Dragon Medical Advisor, a computer-assisted physician documentation tool available as software as a service (SaaS).

Nuance did not rent a booth on the exhibit floor, an unusual move noticed by many attendees.

The company touted the offering as technology to improve the thoroughness of dictated medical notes, help providers meet the dramatically stepped-up requirements of ICD-10 and justify medical-necessity-of-care decisions.

Rather than announce its new wares at the AHIMA convention about a mile away at the Ernest N.  Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, Nuance instead set up what company executives called an "oasis" away from the main show at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, at which the panel was held. Nuance did not rent a booth on the exhibit floor, an unusual move noticed by many attendees.

Nuance spokeswoman Ann Joyal said, however, that Nuance is a platinum sponsor of AHIMA and helped underwrite an AHIMA white paper about information governance, a major policy initiative for the group this year.

SNOMED can tie into ICD-10

By comparison, Nuance's longtime rival, MModal, based in Franklin, Tenn., had a big installation on the AHIMA convention exhibition floor, at which it showed its competing clinical documentation improvement (CDI) systems.

MModal relies on SNOMED (systemized nomenclature of medicine) as its library of clinical and medical vocabulary, Aaron Brauser, vice president of solutions management, told SearchHealthIT at the company's booth. SNOMED is then linked to ICD-10 codes in MModal's collection of CDI software.

AHIMA promotes information governance

Beyond ICD-10, leaders of the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) are promoting information governance, for which attendees commonly used the acronym "IG."

During a general session keynote at the group's annual show, Deborah Green, AHIMA's executive vice president and chief innovation and global services officer, touted information governance as the most effective way to "harness the flood of information" stockpiled by healthcare organizations.

At the conference, AHIMA introduced an information governance "toolkit," among other information governance resources and services.

"Sometimes we really do feel we're drowning in data," Green said from the convention's center stage to an audience of several thousand attendees. "IG is an imperative across healthcare. It enables trust. It enables us to reduce our risk of relying on our own data."

"We're standards-based," Brauser said, noting that SNOMED is a standard approved by the U.S. Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC).

Both MModal and Nuance provide front-end clinical documentation systems in which doctors speak notes into proprietary hardware and software, and back-end systems in which notes spoken into smartphones and landlines are turned into structured text by transcriptionists, often off shore.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect the University of Miami Health System's business relationships with Nuance and MModal and Nuance's sponsorship of AHIMA.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Shaun Sutner, news and features writer or contact @ssutner on Twitter.

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