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Expert sees benefits of using Siri for patient education

A radiology professor and Siri early adopter sees the voice-activated personal assistant as a way to find information fast -- and to give quadriplegic patients peace of mind.

CHICAGO -- Since the October 2011 release of the Apple Inc. iPhone 4S and the iOS 5 operating system, many have been using Siri, the phone's voice-activated personal assistant, to check the weather, search for a restaurant or read text messages. 

At the Radiological Society of North America's RSNA 2011 annual meeting, University of Washington radiology professor Michael Richardson, M.D., said he sees many practical uses for Siri in health care, especially when it comes to finding information fast.

During a presentation, Richardson demonstrated how quickly he could locate esoteric musculoskeletal information using Siri. After his session, Richardson told he sees the Siri service as a way to improve patient education, both for family practitioners and the specialists to whom they refer patients.

Richardson, who has been using Siri since its original release, believes Apple software developers have improved the application since Apple acquired Siri Inc. in April 2010.

While there is potential for physicians using Siri to call up information to share with patients as they teach them about their health issues -- information that has hitherto taken a long time to find, if it's even available -- Richardson sees even more value for quadriplegic patients. Previously, systems possessing some of Siri's search and assistance functionality and catering to those users ran only on Windows and were expensive; one cost $8,000, he said.

"My wife's a pediatrician, and she's been using Siri with some of her mobility-impaired patients -- for example, they might only be able to touch a screen with their mouth," Richardson said. "That company should be out of business for charging crippled kids $8,000…I think Siri might take over quite a bit of that [business]."

Let us know what you think about the story; email Don Fluckinger, Features Writer.

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