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by Heidi Adams
What are the advantages (and disadvantages) of virtual / online support systems for cancer patients? What kinds of lessons do these support systems for cancer patients offer for other kinds of patients? What kinds of lessons do these support systems for cancer patients offer in the bigger picture, as more and more of our hour-to-hour, day-to-day activities move from the physical world to the virtual world?
Electronic health records have the potential for enormous good, but in order for them to live up to their full potential, information about patients -- their symptoms, diagnoses, allergic reactions, medical backgrounds, family histories -- must take the form of standardized, structured, easy-to-manipulate data. One obvious way to get there is to tightly structure the way that doctors create the medical record. As a result, physicians are under increasing pressure to abandon unrestricted natural language and the clinical narrative, and turn the medical documentation process into a jungle of pull-down menus, checkboxes, and restricted vocabularies. In this presentation I argue that the results could be catastrophic, I make the case for preserving the clinical narrative, and I argue for a practical way out of the dilemma: using natural language processing technology to produce the structured records we need, while still allowing physicians the freedom of unrestricted clinical language.
9th–13th March 2012