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Nuance Takes Page from Healthcare Clients in Petya Outage Aftermath

Posted on November 6, 2017 I Written By

Colin Hung is the co-founder of the #hcldr (healthcare leadership) tweetchat one of the most popular and active healthcare social media communities on Twitter. Colin speaks, tweets and blogs regularly about healthcare, technology, marketing and leadership. He is currently an independent marketing consultant working with leading healthIT companies. Colin is a member of #TheWalkingGallery. His Twitter handle is: @Colin_Hung.

On June 27th the Petya Malware (or NotPetya or ExPteya) struck Nuance Communications (NASDAQ: NUAN). For days the company’s eScription speech-recognition platform were unavailable, forcing thousands of healthcare clients to find alternatives for their medical transcription. During the crisis and in the weeks that followed, Nuance borrowed a page from their healthcare clients: not offering false hope and deconstructing the incident to learn from it.

At the recent CHIME Fall Forum in San Antonio Texas, I had the opportunity to sit down with Brenda Hodge, Chief Marketing Officer – Healthcare and Ed Rucinski, Senior Vice President of World Wide Healthcare Sales of Nuance to talk about the Petya outage and where the company is headed.

“The challenge we faced with Petya brought us all together as a company,” explained Ed. “When our systems went offline, the entire organization rallied together. We had engineers and support staff who slept at the office on couches and cots. We had developers who went with less than 2hrs of sleep for 4 days straight because they wanted to help clients and bring our systems back online as quickly as possible. We became a nameless and rank-less organization working towards a common goal.”

As the outage went from minutes to hours to days, Nuance resisted the temptation to offer false hope to its clients. Instead, the company opted to be truthful and transparent. Nuance sent emails and directly called clients to let them know they had suffered a cyber attack, that the full extent of the damage was not known and that they did not know when their systems would be back online. The company did, however, commit to providing regular updates and being available to answer questions and address concerns.

The following is an abbreviated excerpt from a Nuance communication posted online by one of its clients:

Nuance corporate systems were unfortunately affected by a global cyber attack today. We went into immediate security protocol by shutting down our hosted production systems and platforms. There is no update at this time as to when the accounts will be back online but we will be holding regular calls throughout the day and night to gain insight into the timeline for resolution and I will update you again when I have more info. We are sorry for the inconvenience this outage has caused and we are working diligently to get things back online.

Clinicians are coached never to give patients in crisis or their families false hope. They calmly explain what happened, state the facts and talk about potential next steps. They do not, however, say that “things will be alright”, even though they know that is what everyone desperately wants to hear. Nuance used this same protocol during the Petya outage.

The company also used protocols similar to those used following an adverse event.

Healthcare is complex and despite the best efforts and best intentions of care teams, errors occur. These errors are referred to as adverse events. Adverse events that impact patient safety or that cause actual harm to patients are thoroughly documented, deconstructed and analyzed by clinical leaders as well as risk managers. The lessons gleaned from these unfortunate events are captured and used to improve operations. The goal is to prevent or mitigate the impact of similar events in the future.

After their systems were fully restored, the Nuance team embarked on a thorough review of the incident – from technical procedures to client communication protocols.

“We learned a lot through this incident” says Hodge. “We got a first-hand education on how sophisticated malware has become. We’ve gone from viruses to malware to ransomware to coordinated nation-state attacks. That’s what Petya really is – a coordinated attack on company infrastructure. Now that we have been through this type of attack, we have put in new processes and technologies to prevent similar attacks in the future. Most importantly we have made investments in improving our response to these types of attacks.”

Nuance has gone one step further. They have committed to sharing their painful lessons learned with other companies and healthcare institutions. “Like it or not, we are all in this together”, continued Hodge. “The Petya attack came on the heels of the WannaCry ransomware attack that impacted many of our healthcare clients – so there was a lot of empathy from our clients. In fact this whole incident has created a sense of solidarity in the healthcare technology community. Cyber attacks are not going to stop and we need to come together as an industry so that we are as prepared as we can be for the next one.”

“It’s unfortunate that it took an incident like this to show us what we are made of,” says Rucinski. “We had executives making coffee and fetching lunch for the support teams. We had leaders offering to run errands for staff because they knew they were too tired to keep up with those types of things. In the end we found out we truly embody the values and principles that we have hanging on posters around the office.”

The Petya Global Malware Incident Hitting Nuance, Merck, and Many Others

Posted on July 3, 2017 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

The Petya Malware (or NotPetya or ExPetya) has really hit healthcare in a big way. The biggest impact on the healthcare IT world was the damage it caused to Nuance, but it also hit Merck and some other healthcare systems. After a shaky start to their communication strategy, Nuance seems to finally at least be updating their customers who saw a lot of downtime from when it first started on June 28 until now. This rogue Nuance employee account has been pretty interesting to watch as well. There’s a lesson there about corporate social media policies during a crisis.

Petya was originally classified as ransomware, but experts are now suggesting that it’s not ransomware since it has no way to recover from the damage it’s doing. It’s amazing to think how pernicious a piece of malware is that just destroys whatever it can access. That’s pretty scary as a CIO and it’s no surprise that Petya, WannaCry, and other malware/ransomware is making CIOs “cry.”

It’s been eye opening to see how many healthcare organizations have depended on Nuance’s services and quite frankly the vast number of services they offer healthcare. It’s been extremely damaging for many healthcare organizations and has them rethinking their cloud strategy and even leaving Nuance for competitors like MModal. I’m surprised MModal’s social team hasn’t at least tweeted something about their services still being available online and not affected by Petya.

I’ll be interested to see how this impacts Nuance’s business. Nuance is giving away free versions of their Dragon Medical voice recognition software to customers who can’t use Nuance’s transcription business. Long term I wonder if this will actually help Nuance convert more customers from transcription to voice recognition. In the past 5 days, Nuance’s stock price has droppped $1.54 per share. Considering the lack of effective alternatives and the near monopoly they have in many areas, I’ll be surprised if their business is severely damaged.

As I do with most ransomware and malware incidents, I try not to be too harsh on those experiencing these incidents. The reality is that it can and will happen to all of us. It’s just a question of when and how hard we’ll be hit. It’s the new reality of this hyper connected world. Adding to the intrigue of Petya is that it seems to have been targeted mostly at the Ukraine and companies like Nuance and Merck were just collateral damage. Yet, what damage it’s done.

Earlier today David Chou offered some suggestions on how to prevent ransomware attacks that are worth considering at every organization. The one that stands out most to me with these most recent attacks is proper backups. Here is my simple 3 keys to effective backups:

Layers – Given all the various forms of ransomware, malware, natural disasters, etc, it’s important that you incorporate layers of backups. A real time backup of your systems is great until it replicates the malware in real time to your backup server. Then you’re up a creek without a paddle. An off site backup is great until your off site location has an issue. You need to have layers of backup that take into account all of the ways your data could go bad, be compromised, etc.

Simple – This may seem like a contradiction to the first point, but it’s not. You can have layers of backups and still keep the approach simple and straightforward. Far too often I see organizations with complex backup schemes which are impossible to monitor and therefore stop working effectively. The KISS principle is a good one with backups. If you make it too complex then you’ll never realize that it’s actually failing on you. There’s nothing worse than a failed backup when you think it’s running fine.

Test – If you’ve never tested your backups by actually restoring them, then you’re playing russian roulette with your data. It’s well known that many backups complete without actually backing up the data properly. The only way to know if your backup really worked is to do a test restore of the data. Make sure you have regularly scheduled tests that actually restore your data to a backup server. Otherwise, don’t be surprised if and when your backup doesn’t restore properly when it’s really needed. Malware events are stressful enough. Knowing you have a good backup that can be restored can soften the blow.

Backups won’t solve all of your problems related to malware, but it’s one extremely important step in the process and a great place to start. Now I’m going to go and run some backups on my own systems and test the restore.

Digital Health at CES Wrap Up Video

Posted on January 21, 2015 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

CES 2015 is now in the headlights. One person I talked to said they thought that the event was missing some of the excitement of previous years. I disagreed with him. I thought it was more exciting than previous years. Although, my excitement comes from the entrepreneurs and the Digital Health space. If you look at the larger CES floor with the massive million dollar booths, it was lacking some luster. Of course, with the size of CES, it’s easy to understand why two people could have very different experiences.

If you’re interested about what else I found at CES, I sat down with Dr. Nick van Terheyden, CMIO at Nuance, to talk about our experiences at CES 2015 and some of the takeaways from what we saw. I think you’ll enjoy this CES 2015 video chat below:

Initial CES 2015 Observations

Posted on January 5, 2015 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Yesterday was the start of the International CES (Consumer Electronics Show) 2015 conference in Las Vegas. My friend Dr. Nick from Nuance posted these stats for the CES conference:

For those interested CES attracts 150,000 visitors (they are all flying on the same planes and looking for the same cabs as me it would appear), occupied 2,000,000 square feet of space (35 football fields – American or the rest of the world soccer) and includes 3,500 companies

That gives you a small glimpse into the vastness of the CES event. Yesterday I had a chance to go to the CES press only event called CES Unveiled. It is a small subset of what you’ll find at the larger CES event. Based on this experience and the rash of press releases that have been sent my way for CES, here’s my prediction on the top 3 themes for CES 2015:

  • 3D Printers
  • Drones
  • Wearables

Healthcare has some place in the 3D Printing world, but I don’t expect much of that to be on display at CES. Unless we’re talking about drones that deliver medication to patients, there’s not as much applicability for drones in healthcare (although, they are cool). The wearables space on the other hand is largely about healthcare. There are some non-healthcare applications in wearables, but the majority of wearable applications I’ve seen are for healthcare or have some health and wellness component.

What’s Happening With Wearables?
As I browsed the various wearables yesterday, I noticed that the number of wearable options has proliferated. Companies I’d never heard about had their own wearable product that they were just launching at CES. Plus, the big health wearable players were offering more and more options to consumers. Along with this trend, we’re also seeing a trend to sexier wearables. I’ve seen a number of partnerships between fashion houses and wearable companies. This isn’t surprising since we want our wearable to match our own personal style. The previous options were limited.

I was also interested in many of the ambient sensors that were put alongside other wearables. I can see many companies linking the ambient sensor data with other wearable data to help in your health and wellness. We’ll see where this trend goes.

The most interesting health and wellness wearable I saw was the AmpStrip by FitLinxx (pictured below). The AmpStrip tracks heart rate, activity, respiration, skin temperature and posture all within a device as discrete and comfortable as a Band-Aid®. I think this is a step towards the invisible area of wearables. No one is going to see that you’re wearing it and it’s continuously monitoring your health data. It was susprising to me that they were able to get a tracker like this packaged into something so thin. I thought they’d need something much more bulky, but it was quite thin.
AmpStrip Wearable at CES 2015
I certainly haven’t dug into the science of the AmpStrip, but I like the approach to discreet health and wellness monitoring. They told me that the adhesive had to be replaced every 5-6 days. I wonder if that becomes a really easy task or if it starts to annoy over time. I’m also interested to know about the software that’s tied to the sensor. I’ve known FitLinxx for a while now through their pebble activity tracker. They didn’t have a direct to consumer approach with the Pebble, but they do now with the AmpStrip. I’ll be interested to see how well they do creating the app for the consumer world. Considering their IndieGogo campaign has reached it’s goal in 6 days, they’ll have an opportunity to see how they can do with it.

CES is just getting started. We’ll be back with more to report on as the week progresses. If you’re here as well, I’d love to hear your observations.

Where is Voice Recognition in EHR Headed?

Posted on August 22, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I’ve long been interested in voice recognition together with EHR software. In many ways it just makes sense to use voice recognition in healthcare. There was so much dictation in healthcare, that you’d think that the move to voice recognition would be the obvious move. The reality however has been quite different. There are those who love voice recognition and those who’ve hated it.

One of the major problems with voice recognition is how you integrate the popular EHR template documentation methods with voice. Sure, almost every EHR vendor can do free text boxes as well, but in order to get all the granular data it’s meant that doctors have done a mix of clicking a lot of boxes together with some voice recognition.

A few years ago, I started to see how EHR voice recognition could be different when I saw the Dragon Medical Enabled Chart Talk EHR. It was literally a night and day difference between dragon on other EHR software and the dragon embedded into Chart Talk. You could see so much more potential for voice documentation when it was deeply embedded into the EHR software.

Needless to say, I was intrigued when I was approached by the people at NoteSwift. They’d taken a number of EHR software: Allscripts Pro, Allscripts TouchWorks, Amazing Charts, and Aprima and deeply integrated voice into the EHR documentation experience. From my perspective, it was providing Chart Talk EHR like voice capabilities in a wide variety of EHR vendors.

To see what I mean, check out this demo video of NoteSwift integrated with Allscripts Pro:

You can see a similar voice recognition demo with Amazing Charts if you prefer. No doubt, one of the biggest complaints with EHR software is the number of clicks that are required. I’ve argued a number of times that number of clicks is not the issue people make it out to be. Or at least that the number of clicks can be offset with proper training and an EHR that provides quick and consistent responses to clicks (see my piano analogy and Not All EHR Clicks Are Evil posts). However, I’m still interested in ways to improve the efficiency of a doctor and voice recognition is one possibility.

I talked with a number of NoteSwift customers about their experience with the product. First, I was intrigued that the EHR vendors themselves are telling their customers about NoteSwift. That’s a pretty rare thing. When looking at adoption of NoteSwift by these practices, it seemed that doctor’s perceptions of voice recognition are carrying over to NoteSwift. I’ll be interested to see how this changes over time. Will the voice recognition doctors using NoteSwift start going home early with their charts done while the other doctors are still clicking away? Once that happens enough times, you can be sure the other doctors will take note.

One of the NoteSwift customers I talked to did note the following, “It does require them to take the time up front to set it up correctly and my guess is that this is the number one reason that some do not use NoteSwift.” I asked this same question of NoteSwift and they pointed to the Dragon training that’s long been required for voice recognition to be effective (although, Dragon has come a long way in this regard as well). While I think NoteSwift still has some learning curve, I think it’s likely easier to learn than Dragon because of how deeply integrated it is into the EHR software’s terminology.

I didn’t dig into the details of this, but NoteSwift suggested that it was less likely to break during an EHR upgrade as well. Master Dragon users will find this intriguing since they’ve likely had a macro break after their EHR gets upgraded.

I’ll be interested to watch this space evolve. I won’t be surprised if Nuance buys up NoteSwift once they’ve integrated with enough EHR vendors. Then, the tight NoteSwift voice integrations would come native with Dragon Medical. Seems like a good win win all around.

Looking into the future, I’ll be watching to see how new doctors approach documentation. Most of them can touch type and are use to clicking a lot. Will those new “digital native” doctors be interested in learning voice? Then again, many of them are using Siri and other voice recognition on their phone as well. So, you could make the case that they’re ready for voice enabled technologies.

My gut tells me that the majority of EHR users will still not opt for a voice enabled solution. Some just don’t feel comfortable with the technology at all. However, with advances like what NoteSwift is doing, it may open voice to a new set of users along with those who miss the days of dictation.

Mobile Health Trends and Technology

Posted on December 19, 2012 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

While at the mHealth Summit 2012 in DC, I captured a couple videos to try and get an idea of the various mHealth trends that we’ve been seeing in 2012 and what we can expect from mobile health in 2013. Each video is quite short, but full of interesting thoughts on the mHealth industry.

The first two videos are with David Collins from mHIMSS. David has a unique insight since HIMSS has made a big entry into the mHealth space with their acquisition of the mHealth Summit.

In the first video, David Collins talks about the various mobile health trends he’s seen at the mHealth Summit.

In this second video, David Collins discusses some of the key findings from the recently published HIMSS Analytics mHealth survey results.

I also thought it was interesting to hear from Jonathon Dreyer from Nuance Communications to learn what trends he was seeing. Jonathon and Nuance have an interesting perspective since so many mHealth applications could benefit from voice integration. So, they have a unique view at what mHealth applications exist.

Plus, I have to throw in this video that Jonathon made that demonstrates the Nuance voice integration with mobile devices. Nuance actually created this “dummy” EMR system to demonstrate the capabilities of their mobile voice recognition API. I think this was a really smart move since the demo really does illustrate some of the voice capabilities that could be built into EMR software and all sorts of mobile health applications. The video isn’t the perfect demo of the product, but it definitely does give a great window on what could be done with voice recognition when integrated properly.

Nuance Interviews Me and Jonathon Dreyer at Health 2.0 Boston

Posted on June 26, 2012 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I’m currently enjoying the depths of my first experience at ANI 2012 in Las Vegas. It’s been a really great experience meeting a number of healthcare CFO’s and some new healthcare vendors. If any of my readers are at ANI, I’d love to meet. You know how to find me on Twitter (@ehrandhit).

While I’m busy at the conference I thought I’d post some videos that Nuance did with me at Health 2.0 Boston. It was kind of fun for them to turn the tables and put me on camera with Jonathon Dreyer, Sr. Manager, Mobile Solutions Marketing, at Nuance Healthcare. The videos were broken into 3 parts: health IT trends, mobile adoption in health IT, and social media in healthcare. I hope you enjoy!

Health IT Trends

Mobile Adoption in Health IT

Social Media in Healthcare

Healthcare Scene Videos and 5 Questions with EHR Vendor Executive Raul Villar, President of ADP AdvancedMD

Posted on May 22, 2012 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Little by little I’m seeing more and more use of video in the healthcare IT and EHR world. It’s amazing to look at the creative ways that people are using video. I think the movement is so important that I’ve been doing a website dedicated to the EMR, EHR & Healthcare IT videos. There’s a large number of people who subscribe to the email list for the EMR Videos website (you can sign up here if you’re interested) and the traffic to the site is growing at a really nice rate.

I’ve also casually started an EMR and HIPAA YouTube channel where I’ve posted a few videos I’ve done over the years. For example, at HIMSS I did a series of interviews with EHR vendors executives called 5 Questions with EHR vendor executives. In fact, I just uploaded another video in that series where I interview Raul Villar, President of ADP AdvancedMD. I’ve embedded the interview with Raul Villar below:

Along with the YouTube channel of my videos, I’ve also created a Healthcare Scene video playlist where I’ll add videos created by other people. If you look at the playlist now, I’ve added part 1 of a 3 part video interview I did with Nuance Healthcare at Health 2.0 Boston.

I think more and more people are interested in video content. Plus, it’s going to be easier and easier to get your video content across all your various devices. So, people will be watching more and more videos.

What trends do you see with video in healthcare IT and EHR? What other ways should the Healthcare Scene Blog Network be using video? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Watson in Healthcare, Malpractice and EHR, Orion and Amalga, and EMR Apps

Posted on October 16, 2011 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Time again for my weekly round up of healthcare IT and EMR related tweets. Plus, a few thoughts from me about the various tweets.

@Craigley
Craig Bradley
I need a Watson robot in the room to be my knowledge/evidence coach & also EMR scribe while I listen/touch/care. @SeattleMamaDoc #chc11

The good news for Craig is that I’ve seen the people from IBM that did Watson working with the people from Nuance (most famous for Dragon Naturally Speaking) working on this. I don’t think it’s that far away.

@nickgenes
borborygmi
First real recommendation: have good backup plan when #EMR goes down; one makpractice case was lost by inadequate downtime system #SA11

This was pretty interesting. I’d love to learn more details about this malpractice case. No doubt you have to work on a proper system to handle EMR down time. I’ve written before about all the ways you could have EMR down time and the cost of EHR down time. It’s not a question of IF you will have EHR down time, but WHEN.

@JBikman
Jeremy Bikman
I’m very excited to see what Orion can become w/ Amalga HIS. My hope is that they emerge as a legit EHR/EPR/HIE player globally. Very cool.

This is interesting news since Orion is focused on the Asia Pacific market. Coincidentally, I’m just finalizing the details of me attending a Healthcare Informatics Conference in Thailand in March 2012. I’m interested to learn a lot more about Asia. You can read more about the Orion Health Deal for Amalga here.

@EMRDailyNews
EMR Daily News
Over 60 EMR / #EHR Apps Now Available in the iTunes App Store su.pr/1tfhMG

64 iPhone EHR apps on the app store. In February there were only 5 EMR apps in the Android marketplace. I’m sure there are a whole lot more now. Plus, the number of apps in the app store is a bit flawed since it’s not like people purchase their EHR software on the app store. However, it’s interesting to see how many are putting it there.

Jeopardy!’s Watson Computer and Healthcare

Posted on May 25, 2011 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I’m sure like many of you, I was completely intrigued by the demonstration of the Watson computer competing against the best Jeopardy! stars. It was amazing to watch not only how Watson was able to come up with the answer, but also how quickly it was able to reach the correct answer.

The hype at the IBM booth at HIMSS was really strong since it had been announced that healthcare was one of the first places that IBM wanted to work on implementing the “Watson” technology (read more about the Watson Technology in Healthcare in this AP article). Although, I found the most interesting conversation about Watson in the Nuance booth when I was talking to Dr. Nick Van Terheyden. The idea of combining the Watson technology with the voice recognition and natural language processing technologies that Nuance has available makes for a really compelling product offering.

One of the keys in the AP article above and was also mentioned by Dr. Nick from Nuance was that the Watson technology in healthcare would be applied differently than it was on Jeopardy!. In healthcare it wouldn’t try and make the decision and provide the correct answer for you. Instead, the Watson technology would be about providing you a number of possible answers and the likelihood of that answer possibly being the issue.

Some of this takes me back to Neil Versel’s posts about Clinical Decision Support and doctors resistance to CDS. There’s no doubt that the Watson technology is another form of Clinical Decision Support, but there’s little about the Watson technology which takes power away from the doctor’s decision making. It certainly could have an influence on a doctor’s ability to provide care, but that’s a great thing. Not that I want doctors constantly second guessing themselves. Not that I want doctors relying solely on the information that Watson or some other related technology provides. It’s like most clinical tools. When used properly, they can provide a great benefit to the doctor using them. When used improperly, it can lead to issues. However, it’s quite clear that Watson technology does little to take away from the decision making of doctors. In fact, I’d say it empowers doctors to do what they do better.

Personally I’m very excited to see technologies like Watson implemented in healthcare. Plus, I think we’re just at the beginning of what will be possible with this type of computing.