Voice-Activated Virtual Assistants: 10 Ways They Can Aid Patient Care

By Brian T. Horowitz  |  Posted 2013-03-18 Print this article Print
Delivering More Accurate, Timely Information

Delivering More Accurate, Timely Information

The command and control techniques of virtual assistants will allow doctors to use dialogue to pull up important information in an EHR, such as a patient's lab results. Natural-language processing in the cloud makes this possible, Petro noted. Doctors can say "Pull up patient John Doe" or "Let me see the results."


You may already be familiar with virtual assistants in the form of Siri on the iPhone or the voice-command system you interact with when you call the cable company. In health care, voice-driven virtual assistants incorporate clinical language understanding (CLU) technology and could allow doctors to better navigate electronic health records (EHRs) and day-to-day documentation using conversational commands. Clinician satisfaction with EHRs has dropped 12 percent from 2010 to 2012, a March 5 survey by the American College of Physicians and online medical resource AmericanEHR Partners revealed. Virtual assistants on mobile devices could bring those numbers back up, suggested Nuance Communications, which has developed a prototype virtual assistant called Florence. Eight out of 10 physicians said virtual assistants will change how they interact with EHRs and other health care apps by 2018, according to a Nuance survey released Feb. 27. It also found that 65 percent of respondents believe a virtual assistant can provide more timely information to support care and alert doctors to missing records. Virtual assistants can assist during computerized physician order entry (CPOE) as doctors issue commands to prescribe medication, order lab tests and request diagnostic procedures. They can even ask for clarification and manage changes in doctors' workflows. For this slide show, Joe Petro, senior vice president for health care engineering and R&D at Nuance, discussed with eWEEK how virtual assistants can aid patient care.


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