Case Study: Natural Language Processing


Increasing Patient Interaction, Addressing Doctor Burnout

The Challenge

The patient experience has changed over the years. Today, doctors face unprecedented regulations and a burden of documentation that is increasingly contributing to physician burnout. 


At each patient interaction a doctor is tasked with recording patient information into electronic medical records, in the case of Houston Methodist, EPIC. Typically, the doctor is entering this information onto a device, such as a tablet or laptop. While the provider is focused on the screen, patient interaction suffers. Houston Methodist Center for Innovation sees a major opportunity to improve the patient experience by reducing provider interaction with a device and increasing patient-to-provider facetime.

The Solution

Natural Language Processing (NLP) is a technology that captures spoken language, interprets it and assigns an action based on the language prompt. Smartphones and smart speakers are consumer examples of NLP in action. The Center for Innovation is focused on integrating NLP with electronic health records. As the doctor converses with the patient, a smart device will capture the dialogue, and based on predetermined prompts, could interpret the doctor’s notes and enter the correct codes into the patient’s health record.

The Pilot

The Center for Innovation is determined to be at the forefront of NLP technology. The testing ground is Houston Methodist’s Technology Hub at the Texas Medical Center — where devices like smartwatches, speakers and microphones are being tested for the greatest efficiency in capturing patient-provider interactions. The Center for Innovation team is partnering with EPIC’s research and development team to begin testing software integration.

The Results

Success in Natural Language Processing will be measured by an increase in patient satisfaction, decrease in physician burnout and the identification of efficiencies, such as a reduction in the labor of transcribers recording information. 

What's Next?

Once technology has been tested and proven out in the Technology Hub, the Center for Innovation will identify clinics and providers to test the capability in a patient setting. The far-ranging implications of NLP in health care resonate with Houston Methodist staff and patients alike. When health care keeps apace with consumer technology, it’s beneficial for everyone.