A friend sent me this article on “intelligent virtual assistants” today.
I think this type of technology has merit, but not in the applications that they describe. Accessing patient history information (“Accessing prior reports and specific report content”) or performing a query (“show me all unread chest CT cases”) is already solved with effective EPR client/data integration and proper worklist configuration.
Where this has merit, I believe, is when the new report is being created, and specific words are used, the assistant can then comb through the available data and automatically create links (e.g. a link to lesion measurements before and after cancer treatment), highlight key info to the physician (e.g. because they used the word “x”, some potentially important lab values automatically pop up in the corner as a notice), or in communication (e.g. initiating real-time consults with an available colleague from a list of appropriate specialists based on specific words being used in the report).
To have value, the assistant has to automate the mundane and has to deal with context across data formats, like scrolling through several pages of info in the EMR to see is any of it relates to the current exam (i.e. will impact the reader’s diagnosis).