Florence Nightingale

We recently conducted a survey that found 80 percent of doctors surveyed believe that within five years virtual assistants will drastically change how they interact and use electronic health records (EHRs) and other healthcare apps, making them more efficient and freeing up time to spend on patients. Based on recent findings from the American College of Physicians that point to frustrations associated with health IT adoption, it’s clear that the need for virtual assistants from a doctor’s standpoint is profound. In order to ensure the streamlined and complete adoption of EHRs, which have been dubbed healthcare’s “circulatory system” and are central to Federal plans to cut costs and improve care, we have to make technology work for doctors rather than against them.

In line with this mission, our team is hard at work bringing the first-ever virtual assistant for healthcare to life. Her name is Florence and she’s focused on helping doctors simplify their interactions with technology so they can spend more one-on-one time with patients – and their own families for that matter. And, as the title of the blog post suggests, she’s named after an icon in healthcare, Florence Nightingale. From streamlining access to information within electronic health records to assisting with adherence to health advice, Florence promises to help usher in the next generation of patient-centric, digital healthcare. More to come on that!

A recent guest blog on Forbes.com, How Virtual Health Assistants Can Reshape Healthcare, shed light on the idea that virtual assistants can and will have a positive impact beyond just physicians. The fact that virtual assistants will have far-reaching impacts throughout healthcare’s complex ecosystem is something I wholeheartedly agree with. In fact, we’ve been exploring the myriad of ways both patients and payers could leverage virtual assistants – easier use of patient portals and encouraging consumer involvement in their own health/wellness – to address quality of care, improve patient engagement and cut healthcare’s mounting costs. Before I get ahead of myself, I want to lay the groundwork for what a virtual assistant actually is and how it differs from other consumer-focused technologies in the market:

  • What is a virtual assistant for healthcare? Technically speaking, a virtual assistant is an embeddable piece of technology that actively listens and takes directives from a user—a physician or other clinical professional—and engages in conversational, human-like dialogs to fulfill specific requests. Virtual assistants are capable of understanding the intent of a request, prompting for all necessary information, asking for clarification when needed, and confirming requests much like their human-equivalents. For example, virtual assistants could provide doctors with more accurate, timely information to support care or alert them to missing information in records.
  • How does a virtual assistant for healthcare differ from other voice-enabled technologies available to consumers? Virtual assistants for healthcare are built on medical vocabulary, language and grammar models so they know the difference between humorous (funny) and humerus (the bone in the arm). In addition, their intelligence engines are designed such that they can comprehend complex clinical interactions and identify specific medical content.

How do you see virtual assistants playing a role across the healthcare ecosystem? In a series of upcoming blog posts, we’ll explore how advancements in mobility and a focus on the cost and care benefits associated with increased patient engagement are helping pave a path toward increased adoption of virtual assistants for patients, providers and payers.

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Jonathon Dreyer

About Jonathon Dreyer

Jonathon Dreyer is the senior director of solutions marketing for Nuance’s Healthcare division where he is driving a physician-first approach to medicine by bringing cloud-based speech recognition and clinical language understanding technology to a worldwide community of healthcare IT developers and provider organizations. Prior to his current role, Jon worked as the solutions marketing manager for Diagnostic Imaging at Nuance and previously headed up marketing at Commissure Inc., a provider of clinical documentation and healthcare communication solutions. Jon graduated with Summa Cum Laude honors at Wayne State University where he earned a B.S business administration.