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Encouraged by iPhone market, Nuance announces new medical apps

Dragon Dictation and Dragon Search from Nuance Communications were definite crowd-pleasers, so today the company is announcing specialized medical versions of the apps for physicians and medical professionals.

The first app is Dragon Medical Mobile Dictation. It is designed to allow clinicians to dictate patient notes, emails and text messages instead of typing them on a mobile device. The idea is to let medical professionals dictate and capture information in real time with a smartphone, without having to return to a desktop or laptop computer. The product is expected to be available before the end of the year.

Nuance is also announcing Dragon Medical Mobile Search, a variation of Dragon Search that will allow medical staff to search a variety of medical websites completely by voice using an iPhone. The app is expected to be released by April 30.

Finally, Nuance is unveiling Dragon Medical Mobile Recorder, a voice capture app that will allow clinicians to conduct on-the-go dictation using a smartphone. Once the sound is recorded, the file is forwarded through Nuance's background speech recognition technology and into a transcription where a high quality draft is created, then returned for review and sign off. The Dragon Medical Recorder is due before the end of this year.

Nuance estimates that by the end of next year, 81% of physicians will be using smartphones. More interesting is that the company research shows the iPhone breaking away from the pack of other smartphones to be the preferred device in the medical enterprise. According to the Nuance research, the Blackberry is still the leading smartphone among physicians, but the iPhone growth is explosive and almost doubled in use by physicians between 2008 and 2009. In a July survey of Medical Students it was found that 45% owned an iPhone or an iPod touch. Of those who did not own a smartphone, 60% planned to buy an iPhone or iPod touch within a year.

That has to be good news for Apple, and I would expect Steve Jobs and colleagues to continue to push the iPhone into the enterprise in the coming months.

For Nuance Communications, it's a further endorsement of Apple products. Earlier this month Nuance bought MacSpeech, the company that produces MacSpeech Dictate. The application uses the Dragon speech recognition engine. Nuance also provided the voice recognition that powers the popular Siri app for the iPhone, that lets users do searches with natural language queries.

Peter Durlach, the Senior V.P. of marketing and Strategy for Nuance, told me the company is also taking a close look at the Apple iPad for use by medical professionals. The company will see if the form factor works for doctors and nurses, and Durlach says he expects the iPad to be an important part of future Nuance solutions.

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