UPMC Doctor Pushing the Possibilities of NLP in Health Care


Rajiv Leventhal of Healthcare Informatics reports, "The goal of clinical decision support (CDS) is to aid decision making of healthcare providers by providing easily accessible health-related information at the point and time it is needed. As such, natural language processing (NLP) technology is instrumental in using free-text information to drive CDS. In 2011, the Burlington, Mass.-based voice recognition technology company Nuance and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) signed a 10-year joint development agreement to create speech and clinical language understanding -enabled technologies."


Leventhal goes on, "Currently, most medical data is captured as unstructured free text and cannot be easily analyzed. Recently, Andrew Watson, M.D., CMIO and medical director for the Center of Connected Medicine at UPMC— a center that promotes a new model of healthcare that integrates information technologies to put patients at the center of care—spoke with HCI Assistant Editor Rajiv Leventhal about UPMC’s recent developments with Nuance, strategies around NLP and clinical language understanding."


Asked how UPMC is unlocking its data, Dr. Watson told HCI, "Eighty percent of our data used to be unstructured text, so using speech-to-text solutions and NLP are our main attack methods. We had to get our data going into the input mechanisms, such as EHRs, and we have put our entire system onto Nuance’s [solutions]. As a result, we have seen cost savings north of $12 million per year in transcription costs since you’re not paying transcription companies anymore, as well as all the downstream benefits that we never talk about. Getting structured data is the beginning of our analytics program. You are converting the process to something that is more consistent, reproducible, and specific."


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Image: Courtesy UPMC