5 areas where NLU is helping transform healthcare
1. Conversational documentation. Clinical documentation is an important aspect of a physician’s work. They need to have their notes converted in to clinical information that is actionable, such as a call to prescribe medication. Normally this is done by inputting dictation or text to a computer system. An NLU system can automatically take this information and interpret the narrative documentation (a conversational description of the patient’s visit) to find actionable items.
2. Computer-assisted coding (CAC). Once a doctor treats a patient, someone needs to look at the physician’s notes and assign a billing code in order for the to receive payment. Fritsch says CAC programs that use NLU “under the hood to understand the diseases and the diagnoses” can pull this information from unstructured physician notes and automatically assign a billing code.
3. Clinical documentation improvement (CDI). Accurately documenting the condition of the patient and what procedures were performed “drives how much money [healthcare providers] get and how soon they get it,” says Fritsch. “If it’s not documented, it didn’t happen.” As procedures and billing codes become more complex, it is easier for a provider to accidentally leave a treatment undocumented, therefore losing the opportunity to receive payment. An NLU system can identify missing, incomplete or inconsistent information in a physician’s documentation.
4. Clinical decision support (CDS). CDS provides “relevant, abstracted summaries of clinical research results to guide physicians.” A physician can look back on his or her records and see how certain types of treatment affected patients, using CDS to make decisions about future courses of treatment. While this tool currently exists, NLU integration for it does not. Although many hospitals have transitioned to electronic notes from paper, it’s not in what Fritsch calls “computer readable form.” This is where NLU comes in: a doctor can make requests for certain data to be displayed and NLU can pull information from unstructured notes.
5. Interoperability. Moving medical records from one provider to another can cause major gaps in care, even if those records are already electronic. “If you move from the west coast to the east coast and all of your health information is in Word documents, your new provider doesn’t have time to read 20 pages,” Fritsch says. An NLU system can analyze the unstructured document and build lists of patient information like allergies, medications, and medical procedures. The physician can click on those lists and bring up the associated notes, saving them time.