HIMSS Blog: Can robots give meaning to EMRs

April 8, 2009

The debate over “meaningful use” has begun. At stake is nothing less than the success of President Obama’s initiative to turn paper into electronic medical records.

The debate over “meaningful use” has begun. At stake is nothing less than the success of President Obama’s initiative to turn paper into electronic medical records.
If EMR systems cannot demonstrate meaningful use, their use will not be reimbursed by the Federal government. They will not be purchased by caregivers. And the EMR revolution will not happen.
The means for imbuing meaning to EMRs may come from the development of intelligent tools, ones that can uncover and process EMR data into the discoveries that dramatically reduce errors, minimize costs, and boost productivity. They will be a breed of technology never seen before, a kind of machine intelligence that plows through huge volumes of data, comes up with hypotheses to explain them, then tests those hypotheses.
The first such robot has already arrived – a robot called Adam. Acting autonomously, this algorithmic manifestation of the scientific process – described in a paper published April 3 in the journal Science – discovered simple but new knowledge about the genomics of a kind of baker's yeast that scientists use to model complex life systems. If done by people, this kind of research would be “difficult and irksome”, according to Ross King, who led the research at Aberystwyth University and the University of Cambridge, “but easy for robot scientists."
King envisions teams of human and robot scientists working together in laboratories, their artificial intelligence paving the way to new discoveries. Adam’s first companion, aptly named Eve, is already on the drawing board.
Could the offspring of Adam and Eve work on mundane processes that one day transform medical practice in this country? With these two robot scientists already covering new ground, it could be as simple as switching venues.