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Structured Data Leads to Better Analysis, Outcomes

Scott Mace, for HealthLeaders Media, October 22, 2013

Software that can create structured tables of data from clinicians' notes and then incorporate them into any standard electronic medical record, is easing concerns that structured EHRs are killing the clinical narrative.

At CHIME earlier this month, I heard many CIOs complain that electronic health record systems do a poor job of summarizing clinicians' notes and integrating them with the structured data which forms the backbone for much of the population health analytics which can bend the cost curve of care.

I've been writing for a long time about concerns that structured EHRs are abandoning the clinical narrative. I've even written about the potential for natural language processing (NLP) technology to extract actionable information from that narrative.

Now there is evidence that NLP is starting to make a difference, and more importantly, may not require providers to be locked into a new set of such technologies. Instead, providers might be able to shop around for best-of-breed tools to get the job done.

The reason for my optimism is IBM's LanguageWare Content Analytics software, now in use at the University of North Carolina Health Center.

IBM's software can actually create structured tables of data from free text, which can then be incorporated into any standard medical record, according to IBM officials.

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