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.


Recently, I found myself in a discussion with some colleagues around whether artificial intelligence (AI) could increase commercial engagement and sales productivity; specifically, the Linguamatics flavour of AI, Natural Language Processing (NLP). My first reaction was no – our customers tend to use NLP to pull out critical information for safety assessment from internal reports, genotype-phenotype associations from literature, inclusion/exclusion criteria from clinical trial records; and many more examples that impact drug R&D.

But as the discussion progressed, I realized that as our customers drill more and more into the power of NLP to unlock value from real world data, the answer is actually yes. NLP enables data-driven, rather than document-driven decision support, by extracting key concepts and context from unstructured documents, which can then be rapidly reviewed and analysed. So, since much real world data is unstructured text, NLP can bring real productivity gains.

Challenges for pharma medical field teams

Let me give you some background, and then some examples.

Over recent years, pharma sales reps and medical science liaison staff (MSLs) have faced increasing challenges around access to Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs), physicians and prescribers, due to a more restrictive regulatory environment, new healthcare business models and evolving economic conditions. The boundaries for how pharma sales reps can interact with physicians are more limited, for example the “lunch and learn” meetings that used to be a key tool have been significantly curtailed. In parallel, the pressures on physicians to see more patients also reduces the time they have to learn about new drugs or improved therapies.


It's been more than a few months since the last blog post about I2E - enough time for two versions to be released!

In this post, I will highlight one feature from each release, as well as one part of the product that improves with every release.

I2E 5.4.1 - Blank Smart Query Slots

Previously, Smart Queries required a search term in each field: you had to include a Phase (or multiple Phases). In I2E 5.4.1, it is now possible to design the smart query with a field that is allowed to be blank. For example, you may want to make it possible to leave the Phase field blank (that is, allow clinical trials with any Phase) but still search for an Indication (or multiple Indications).

This applies to Dates, Authors, Locations, etc. any Smart query item can have its field blank. A great example of this is the collection of Table queries in the Resources query tree: they now allow table headers to contain Any item.

The software screenshot shows that an out-of-the-box Table Extraction queries supports the new ability to allow a Smart query field to match Anything

Fig. 1 Out-of-the-box Table Extraction queries support the new ability to allow a Smart query field to match Anything


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!


Real world evidence provides significant insight into how a drug or drug class performs or is used in real world medical settings. Real world evidence (RWE) and real world data (RWD) can inform all phases of pharmaceutical drug development, commercialization, and drug use in healthcare settings.

The ability to quickly transform real world data sources (e.g. EHRs, or patient-reported outcome data from forums, social media) into evidence can improve health outcomes for patients by helping pharmaceutical companies be more efficient in drug development and smarter in commercialization.

Voice of the customer call feeds: a valuable source of real world data 

One source of patient reported outcomes available to pharma companies are the feeds that come into the 1-800 call centers – calls from patients, carers, healthcare professionals or pharmacists, asking questions covering many different issues, such as: