The typical electronic health record (EHR) system holds more information than any one person could analyze, as do all the medical journals and medical data repositories that exist.
But physicians could soon leverage all of that information to make better decisions, according to leading health IT experts, as EHRs and other healthcare software systems begin to incorporate cognitive computing.
Cognitive computing, a branch of artificial intelligence, harnesses self-learning systems, data mining, natural language processing and other technologies to analyze information, identify patterns and draw conclusions – just as the human mind does, only on a vastly larger scale and speed.
The result will be computers that act more like virtual assistants than data-entry systems.
“Cognitive computing will impact how we deliver care, it will impact clinical workflows and it will impact other spaces within the physician business as well,” said Todd Evenson, MBA, chief operating officer at the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA).
“It’s able to identify outputs that a physician didn’t necessarily think of,” said Ian E. Hoffberg, applied innovation manager, health information systems, for the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS).
Health IT experts offered a vision of how cognitive computing will work in a typical physician’s office:
Task-automation software, known as a “bot,” could answer calls and take information, directing callers to the right person or to a computer system where the caller can upload health data to be analyzed; the system could alert staff to callers who need immediate attention based on the analysis.