Study reveals details about the effectiveness of NLP

Most safety doctors and physicians need to use administrative codes and their own recordkeeping to catalog information on patients. This can add time and effort to the process as medical professionals are required to possess an extensive knowledge of numerical configurations and document their own observations effectively. However, steps are being made in the industry that would allow doctors to use free-text searches when looking for this type of information – and even one day rely on their speech to take accurate patient notes.

One method of realizing this option is natural language processing (NLP), which was most notably demonstrated by IBM's famous Watson computer. A recent study by the American Medical Association found that using this technology, which is now mainly being used to extract medical terms related to billing from electronic medical records, could more accurately identify postsurgical complications.

The study, conducted using administrative data from the Veterans Affairs Surgical Quality Improvement Program (VASQIP), targeted six post-operative complications that nurses needed to search for using billing codes and other patient safety indicators. The researchers determined that NLP had a superior accuracy in detecting patient complications.

According to the study, NLP offers several advantages. For example, it can be used to improve quality and adapt to the strategy of an organization, be completed on each day a patient is still hospitalized and used to survey the entire patient population due to its easy scan-ability.

While the results are likely to garner attention, many professionals, such as Carol Haraden of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, say that NLP may be slow to catch on since it is big investment, InformationWeek reports.

In the meantime, affordable ways to improve the healthcare IT problems many small practices face could be found with medical billing software and EMR software, both of which increase a doctor's access to reliable information. Medisoft, Lytec, Practice Choice and Allscripts are a few of the leading vendors that provide this software.