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Does NLP Deserve To Be The New Hotness In Healthcare?

Posted on August 30, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

Lately, I’ve been seeing a lot more talk about the benefits of using natural language processing technology in healthcare. In fact, when I Googled the topic, I turned up a number of articles on the subject published over the last several weeks. Clearly, something is afoot here.

What’s driving the happy talk? One case in point is a new report from health IT industry analyst firm Chilmark Research laying out 12 possible use cases for NLP in healthcare.

According to Chilmark, some of the most compelling options include speech recognition, clinical documentation improvement, data mining research, computer-assisted coding and automated registry reporting. Its researchers also seem to be fans of clinical trial matching, prior authorization, clinical decision support and risk adjustment and hierarchical condition categories, approaches it labels “emerging.”

From what I can see, the highest profile application of NLP in healthcare is using it to dig through unstructured data and text. For example, a recent article describes how Intermountain Healthcare has begun identifying heart failure patients by reading data from 25 different free text documents stored in the EHR. Clearly, exercises like these can have an immediate impact on patient health.

However, stories like the above are actually pretty unusual. Yes, healthcare organizations have been working to use NLP to mine text for some time, and it seems like a very logical way to filter out critical information. But is there a reason that NLP use even for this purpose isn’t as widespread as one might think? According to one critic, the answer is yes.

In a recent piece, Dale Sanders, president of technology at HealthCatalyst, goes after the use of comparative data, predictive analytics and NLP in healthcare, arguing that their benefits to healthcare organizations have been oversold.

Sanders, who says he came to healthcare with a deep understanding of NLP and predictive analytics, contends that NLP has had ”essentially no impact” on healthcare. ”We’ve made incremental progress, but there are fundamental gaps in our industry’s data ecosystem– missing pieces of the data puzzle– that inherently limit what we can achieve with NLP,” Sanders argues.

He doesn’t seem to see this changing in the near future either. Given how much money has already been sunk in the existing generation of EMRs, vendors have no incentive to improve their capacity for indexing information, Sanders says.

“In today’s EMRs, we have little more than expensive word processors,” he writes. “I keep hoping that the Googles, Facebooks and Amazons of the world will quietly build a new generation EMR.” He’s not the only one, though that’s a topic for another article.

I wish I could say that I side with researchers like Chilmark that see a bright near-term future for NLP in healthcare. After all, part of why I love doing what I do is exploring and getting excited about emerging technologies with high potential for improving healthcare, and I’d be happy to wave the NLP flag too.

Unfortunately, my guess is that Sanders is right about the obstacles that stand in the way of widespread NLP use in our industry. Until we have a more robust way of categorizing healthcare data and text, searching through it for value can only go so far. In other words, it may be a little too soon to pitch NLP’s benefits to providers.

Speech Recognition and EMR

Posted on September 21, 2010 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.

Shahid, The Healthcare Guy, recently added a guest post from Nick van Terheyden, MD, Chief Medical Information Officer (Clinical Language Understanding) from Nuance Healthcare (Yes, they make Dragon Naturally Speaking – DNS) about making the most of speech recognition with an EMR. Here are the major points that Nick made:

  • Have the right hardware installed.
  • Intelligent application Coexistence.
  • Use good quality microphones and sound recording equipment.
  • Environmental Considerations.
  • Create a Standard and Replicate.
  • Anticipate Resistance. Expect resistance.
  • Quick Portable Guides.
  • Preparation.
  • Horses for Courses.
  • Identify champion(s).

I think that voice recognition is fascinating. Personally, I haven’t used it all that much. I certainly write a lot and so you’d think it would be perfect for me. I guess the reason I haven’t done it is first that I type pretty fast and second the extra time that it takes me to type the post helps me to formulate my ideas into a more coherent manner.

People are generally surprised to find out that I don’t proofread these blog posts (most of the time). It’s definitely a different type of publishing, but for the most part I build an idea in my head and then formulate the content for the blog as I type it. I’m not sure how well that would work with voice recognition. Although, maybe this week I’ll try it and see how it goes.

This said, I think many doctors have well trained dictation skills and so the idea of using speech recognition to capture their documentation into an EMR is a very natural thing. Hopefully the above ideas will help out those that are interested in pursuing speech recognition.

Selecting a Microphone for Dragon Naturally Speaking Medical 10

Posted on November 19, 2008 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.

Choosing a microphone is one of the most important decisions you can make when implementing a speech recognition software like Dragon Naturally Speaking Medical 10. Thanks to Eric over at Speech Recognition I’ve gotten some interesting information about a microphone called the PowerMic II. Looks like it’s a microphone on steroids. Definitely one other microphone to consider when selecting a microphone to use with voice recognition software. Here’s an overview of the PowerMic II utilized with Dragon Medical 10 thanks to 1450, Inc. with commentary by Jay Goodfellow.

OVERVIEW:
The PowerMic II is a speech recognition microphone designed to be used with Dragon Medical 10.

However, the PowerMic II is much more than a hand held microphone. It is a powerful tool that enhances a physician’s control of dictation and navigation through documents, templates, electronic medical records and other applications. It has been designed specifically to be utilized with Dragon Medical 10, and the extraordinarily tight integration shows that to be true.

Not only does the PowerMic II have full mouse functionality, but there are 10 function keys that are programmable to provide practically any operation that a physician might want to do on his/her computer.

Yes, you can already use Dragon Medial 10 to do almost anything you want to on your computer by voice. However, using the PowerMic II and Dragon Medical, you substantially enhance your ability to do essentially anything you’d like on your computer, using the more convenient method at that moment: voice or function button.

The PowerMic II is designed to be fully functional with Dragon Medical 10 only. Dragon Preferred 10, Professional 10, and Legal 10 are not capable of using all of the programmable PowerMic II features.

Check out the following prices for the various versions of DNS on Amazon:


I’m still looking around for the best location to buy Dragon NaturallySpeaking Medical.