by December 3rd, 2013on
Guilty! I text while I drive…eek! I know, I know, it is really bad and those anti-texting and driving commercials get me too. That is why I am making a concentrated effort to ease up this one vice (stop laughing those that know me!) of mine. Instead, I am beginning to use the voice text option and good ole Siri on my phone, which when I speak like a robot and articulate every word, does alright. But old habits die hard, which is why I understand and sympathize with physicians constantly having to change their behavior in light of all the regulatory demands in recent years.
One behavior that physicians are being asked to change is their practice patterns of dictating or handwriting clinical notes and discharge summaries. The change comes from the desire to move away from unstructured data to more structured data for consistent, easily minable and extractable information for more robust and quality reporting and analytics. 80% of clinical documentation that exists in healthcare today is unstructured and is buried in electronic medical records (EMR) and clinical notes1. Many healthcare providers are looking to natural language processing (NLP) technologies to assist in taking their valuable unstructured data, and turning it into meaningful and actionable structured data to improve patient care.
Natural Language Processing and Clinical Language Understanding
In its simplest definition, NLP is the interaction between artificial intelligence and linguistics. It encompasses anything a computer needs to understand typed or spoken language and also generate the language2. More specifically, NLP applied to the medical domain is called Clinical Language Understanding (CLU), with the main difference being that CLU works off of a complete, highly granular medical ontology, which has been tuned to relate and identify all kinds of medical facts so that the underlying NLP engine can “understand” what the caregiver is saying1. NLP has been around for years, but it wasn’t till recently that healthcare industry took notice of the value of this effectively powerful technology.