Health IT Thought Leader Highlight: Joe Petro, SVP Engineering, R&D, Nuance Healthcare

Joe Petro

Joe Petro is senior vice president of healthcare research and development, where he provides leadership for all of the research and development required to bring Nuance Healthcare products to market, including: Dragon Naturally Speaking, eScription, Dictaphone (Enterprise Express/iChart), Radiology Platform, Radiology Reporting & Decision Support, SpeechMagic, Critical Test Results Reporting and innovations such as cloud offerings, CLU, and CAPD. Prior to joining Nuance, Joe was SVP of product development at Eclipsys Corporation. While at Eclipsys, he also served on the executive staff and was a reporting officer, where he was responsible for the development of more than 30 products from ADT, departmental, inpatient, ancillaries, patient financial management and outpatient products. Petro received a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from University of New Hampshire and a Master’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering from Kettering, graduating both with Summa Cum Laude accolades.

Here he discusses Nuance, the evolution of technology in health IT, trends and changes, the patient response, meaningful use’s hamstringing and the biggest obstacles patients face.

Describe Nuance Communications and your role.

Nuance is the market leader in creating clinical understanding solutions that drive smart, efficient decisions across the health information technology industry. More than 500,000 clinicians and 10,000 healthcare facilities worldwide use our technology and solutions.  Nuance clinical speech and understanding products are deeply embedded in EHR solutions, such as Cerner, Epic, Meditech, etc., enabling them to deliver innovations that provide a seamless user experience to their clinicians.

I’m the senior vice president of engineering, Research and Development, for Nuance’s healthcare division. I am responsible for the research and development of the entire Nuance Healthcare product portfolio. When not leading the engineering teams, I spend time with clients trying to understand how to improve existing products and devise brand new ideas that someday will become part of our extensive product portfolio.

How is Nuance changing healthcare today and in the future? Where do you see the company, and health IT going?

I think the health IT industry is approaching an inflection point where technology shifts from being viewed as a mandated requirement to more of a ”necessity that I must have in order to get my job done.” We are finally reaching a point where the cloud is enabling the kind of form-factor agnostic experience that we all thought made a lot of sense from the very beginning, but which was challenging to deliver because all of our “things” were not connected.

When it comes to tech adoption, particularly in healthcare, there needs to be a catalyst—we saw that with CMS regulations and meaningful use. Now, we are starting to see perspectives shift: Physicians are asking seemingly obvious questions like “Why can’t I access this data on my smart phone…?” or “Why can’t I do the same things on my phone as I can using the computer on wheels in the hospital?” This kind of shift is creating massive opportunities for a company like Nuance because the ability to get data into the mobile device (and easily access it) can be profoundly impacted by the technologies that we build. And sure there are plenty of challenges, but the industry is becoming more adroit and agile, creating solutions that serve the specific needs of the individual physician – and not just the technology to address government imposed regulations.

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