Throughout my journey of becoming a physician, I have been privy to lots of varying medical opinions/practices. One thing I have noticed is a lack of taking the entire patient, that is all the information available about a patient, into consideration. Now, working for a company specializing in Natural Language Processing (NLP), I find myself wondering how could NLP have helped in these situations?

One stop shopping

I once came across a chain-smoking cardiologist, who would eat fast food everyday. He found it pretty humorous when I cracked a joke about his office proximity to the chain restaurant. I suggested that he put in a revolving door connected to the restaurant and start a campaign of “One Stop Shopping! Get your arteries filled and roto-rootered all within walking distance!” That is if you can walk about 100 feet with a lifestyle such as that. His response? Something about not being a nutritional expert: “my expertise is the heart!” At least, he did always tell his patients not to do what he did.


Hot Topics at HIMSS19

The 2019 Annual HIMSS Conference & Exhibition in Orlando proved to be another spectacular event. HIMSS continues to grow, with an estimated 45,000+ individuals from over 90 countries attending (a 5K population increase in projections from last year).  This was Linguamatics 5th consecutive year exhibiting at HIMSS, and each time it seems the more information we ingest from the event, the more eager we are to attend the subsequent year. This 5-day event offers endless opportunities to educate oneself on ‘what’s new’ and ‘hot topics’ within the industry, and to engage in robust networking sessions.

Trying to find the “signal in the noise” can be difficult at HIMSS. It is both exciting and overwhelming. Two topics of particular interest come to the forefront of my mind: Artificial Intelligence and Interoperability is the one and physician burnout is the other. Burnout ‘studies’ seem to be wildly inconsistent but when you look at the frustrated, sometimes defeated physician faces (and hear the tone of the conversations) my expertise says there is only one obvious conclusion!


Linguamatics NLP platform supports medical research and patient care delivery

Natural Language Processing (NLP) is used to transform text and unstructured data into valuable real-life, outcomes. Generally in Healthcare this application is still in a relatively early stage of adoption. However, some organizations are moving forward towards full success in using NLP to deliver enhanced healthcare research and clinical processes.

Walter Niemczura, the director of application development at Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia, is one of the individuals driving the ongoing initiative to improve healthcare research. Niemczura began working with Linguamatics seven years ago, in order to identify patients with certain characteristics that were well represented in unstructured clinical notes from Electronic Health Records (EHRs). Niemczura realized that the discrete data they had been working with wasn’t going to be enough to really advance and support research and patient care efforts.

"Linguamatics NLP was a huge time-saver. When you’re looking at hundreds of thousands or millions of patient records, the value might be not the ones you have to look at, but the ones you don’t have to look at." Walter Niemczura, director of application development, Drexel University College of Medicine


Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) at the University of Utah is a nationally recognized cancer center that relies heavily on data for its research studies. Because a vast amount of critical patient information is stored in unstructured formats such as clinical notes and pathology reports, finding specific data is often challenging, to say the least—not to mention costly and time consuming.

For years, HCI had compiled information manually or with rudimentary natural language processing (NLP) tools, but surely there was a better way?

After encountering Linguamatics at an informatics conference and learning more about its NLP tools and Linguamatics text mining solution, the HCI research informatics team realized that this is what it had been searching for. To test the system, HCI used Linguamatics NLP platform in a project on breast cancer; it found that data capture was much, much faster, and using NLP improved access to higher quality data.

Since that initial success, HCI has expanded its use of the platform and developed NLP tools for multiple other conditions. It can now provide investigators with the quality data they need when applying for grants, writing papers, or identifying cohorts for specific studies. HCI has also been able to share data and collaborate with other institutions, to advance research and enhance disease understanding, and ultimately achieve better patient outcomes.

“Linguamatics NLP platform is the driver for collecting high quality data and making the process more efficient.” Samir Courdy, Director of Research Informatics Shared Resource
and Chief Research Information Officer, HCI


We don’t know what we don’t know. 

“The three great essentials to achieve anything worthwhile are, first, hard work; second, stick-to-itiveness; third, common sense.”

– Thomas A. Edison

Recently I had the honor to spend some time with some amazing people that are committed to quality in healthcare at the at 2018 HQI Conference in Huntington Beach- yes the sacrifices I must make- what an amazing venue! There, I learned that most of the attendants have been doing their reporting for quality via long hours of manual effort. I look at this in two ways…

1) I applaud such valiant efforts to achieve something worthwhile; and

2) are they unaware that technology can decrease their burden? These hard working professionals certainly cover the hard work and stick-to-itiveness. As for the third essential, this isn’t a case of a lack of common sense, it’s simply a case of…”we don’t know what we don’t know”.  

How do you ensure healthcare quality when the priority is quantity?

Data is everywhere. When it comes to data, what is one person’s garbage is another person’s treasure. It simply has to do with what question you have to ask. And when it comes to quality and reporting metrics it’s best to listen to the experts.  The National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) exists to improve the quality of health care...they even say so on their web page.