Health IT Innovation

Nuance acquires Seattle digital health startup Saykara to boost healthcare AI products

Saykara CEO and founder Harjinder Sandhu speaking at the Health Tech stage of the 2018 GeekWire Summit. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

Nuance Communications has acquired Saykara, a Seattle health-tech startup that makes a voice assistant for clinicians.

Nuance, based in Boston and publicly traded, will use the deal to boost its own AI-related healthcare products.

The acquisition brings together familiar players. Saykara CEO and founder Harjinder Sandhu previously co-founded and sold healthcare startup MedRemote to Nuance in 2005. He then spent five years at Nuance where he served as vice president and chief technologist of healthcare R&D.

In 2015, Sandhu jumped on the startup train again to launch Saykara. The startup had raised $10 million from investors including Madrona Venture Group, SpringRock Ventures, Elevate Innovation Partners, and NewYork-Presbyterian Ventures. It employs around 30 people.

Saykara’s voice assistant Kara is similar to other consumer-focused assistants such as Alexa and Siri, but built for the doctor’s office. It can automatically document an entire doctor-patient conversation without interruption. The idea is to help free up time and energy for doctors. A 2018 survey from Stanford Medicine and Harris Poll found that 71% of physicians say medical record documentation contributes greatly to burnout.

“I welcome the opportunity to rejoin the market leader in conversational AI and ambient clinical intelligence, and the impressive Nuance research and development team – especially at this important juncture in the development and adoption of these AI-powered healthcare innovations,” Sandhu said in a statement.

Adoption of digital health services and products has accelerated amid the pandemic. There were a record 64 digital health acquisitions last year, according to MobiHealthNews. Funding to digital health startups also hit new highs.

Sandhu and Saykara’s team will join Nuance’s R&D group. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. We’ve followed up with Nuance for more details and will update this post when we hear back.

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