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Meaningful Health Care Informatics Blog

Sep 3 2012   7:54PM GMT

NINA and SIRI virtual personal assistants are heading to health care



Posted by: RedaChouffani
NINA, NLP, Personal Assistant, SIRI

This has been an eventful year for speech recognition companies. We are seeing an increased development of intelligence systems that can interact via voice. Siri was simply a re-introduction of digital assistants into the consumer market and since then, other mobile platforms have implemented similar capabilities.

In hospitals and physician’s practices the use of voice recognition products tend to be around the traditional speech-to-text dictation for SOAP (subjective, objective, assessment, plan) notes, and some basic voice commands to interact with EHR systems.  While there are several new initiatives that will involve speech recognition, natural language understanding and decision support tools are becoming the focus of many technology firms. These changes will begin a new era for speech engine companies in the health care market.

While there is clearly tremendous value in using voice solutions to assist during the capture of medical information, there are several other uses that health care organizations can benefit from. Consider a recent product by Nuance called “NINA”, short for Nuance Interactive Natural Assistant. This product consists of speech recognition technologies that are combined with voice biometrics and natural language processing (NLP) that helps the system understand the intent of its users and deliver what is being asked of them.

This app can provide a new way to access health care services without the complexity that comes with cumbersome phone trees, and website mazes. From a patient’s perspective, the use of these virtual assistants means improved patient satisfaction, as well as quick and easy access to important information.

Two areas we can see immediate value in are:

Customer service: Simpler is always better, and with NINA powered Apps, or Siri like products, patients can easily find what they are looking for.  Whether a patient is calling a payer to see if a procedure is covered under their plan, or contacting the hospital to inquire for information about the closest pediatric urgent care. These tools will provide a quick way to get access to the right information without having to navigate complex menus.

Accounting and PHR interaction: To truly see the potential of success for these solutions, we can consider some of the currently used cases that NUANCE has been exhibiting. In looking at it from a health care perspective, patients would have the ability to simply ask to schedule a visit without having to call. A patient also has the ability to call to refill their medication.

Nuance did address some of the security concerns by providing tools such as VocalPassword that will tackle authentication. This would help verify the identity of patients who are requesting services and giving commands. As more intelligence voice-driven systems mature, the areas to focus on will be operational costs, customer satisfaction, and data capture.

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