Speaking your way through the healthcare information maze

In 1894, Oscar Wilde said "it is a very sad thing nowadays there is so little useless information." With approximately five exabytes (that's roughly 5 billion gigabytes) of information being created every few days, his statement is truer today than when it was written nearly 120 years ago. And while much of this information may be categorized as "another entertaining albeit meaningless video on YouTube," there is no question that we live in a data-rich world that yields quite a bit of useful information.

While not nearly as drastic as the consumer space, the constant influx of new information in the medical domain introduces the need for better methods of traversing this vast sea of evolving healthcare information. In fact, a recent Oracle study pointed to some of the key information and data deluge issues the healthcare industry is facing today  --  including the fact that the C-level executives they interviewed wholeheartedly agreed that healthcare organizations are accumulating 85 percent more data than two years ago. Undoubtedly, mHealth has the potential to play a critical role in this ever-changing landscape by opening the door to more accessible medical content and patient health information at the point of care.

In recent years, electronic health record (EHR) manufacturers have turned to smartphones and tablets to satisfy the physician's "mobile" desires. Even though many apps have lived up to the promise of increased productivity on the go, the opportunity still exists to make these solutions more intelligent -- supplanting simple utilitarian actions with more natural, human-like interactions between physicians, mobile devices and the software that powers them.

In the mHealth space, much innovation is taking place around delivering this intelligent app access using new, more advanced breeds of voice recognition technology. Through intelligent voice interactions, mobile devices are able to transform the manner in which physicians complete tasks by understanding and classifying spoken requests and carrying out a set of prescribed actions. For example, access to medical reference content -- such as drug interactions and dosing, diagnoses and treatment schedules -- can be significantly enhanced using these types of intelligent voice technologies. Imagine a physician simply speaking his or her request into a mobile app and retrieving targeted, verified information to support the care delivery process in real time, eliminating the burden imposed by multiple clicks and taps.

The value of these voice-enabled decision support solutions can be extended even further. In the context of the mobile EHR, these systems have the ability to yield significant benefit by complying with directed interactions ("show me labs for this patient") and understanding intents ("schedule a follow-up appointment for next Friday"). Allowing physicians to interact with technology in a natural manner reduces the distance between action and desired outcomes.

By leveraging disruptive technology that improves the user's mHealth experience, physicians will have better, faster and targeted access to much-needed information during the care cycle. How would intelligent voice interaction technology in mHealth apps change the way you practice medicine? (You might not have to wait too long to find out.)

Jonathon Dreyer is senior manager for mobile solutions marketing at Nuance Healthcare.

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