Harnessing Smart Speaker Technology to Aid Interventional Radiologists

By Megan Brooks

April 02, 2019

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Smart speaker technology could offer unique value to interventional radiologists, giving them the ability to access critical information without breaking sterile scrub, according to preliminary research presented March 24 at the Society for Interventional Radiology annual meeting.

"For our initial smart speaker applications, we focused on a pain-point faced by interventional radiologists and surgeons; the inability to use software when in sterile scrub for a procedure. You put on those sterile surgical gloves, you can't touch a smartphone, use a tablet or operate a computer. In some sense, you are robbed of modern technology," Dr. Kevin Seals from University of California, San Francisco said during a press briefing highlighting the research.

Using natural language processing and machine learning, the UCSF team developed a smart speaker application for use during interventional radiology procedures that can quickly provide information related to the sizing of medical devices (catheters, sheaths, stents, vascular plugs, etc.), which is a "common and fundamental challenge during procedures," said Dr. Seals.

The app, for the Google Home smart speaker, processes a human voice query and provides sizing recommendations.

"Currently when there is a question around sizing, the workflow involves having a member of the team dig through a dense manual of device specifications to retrieve the sizing information. That approach is cumbersome, inefficient and takes time and attention away from the direct patient care," said Dr. Seals.

In initial testing, the device sizing smart speaker application achieved "excellent performance for a wide range of tasks," the researchers report in their meeting abstract.

This tool can provide "critical information almost instantaneously, all while the physician remains in the sterile surgical scrub," said Dr. Seals.

This work, he noted, represents an early step in developing a suite of smart speaker tools for interventional radiologists to use during procedures.

The researchers hope to develop a similar tool to query a hospital's inventory database. "For example, being able to ask what 6 mm stents are currently in stock? In this type of situation, the current workflow involves the person leaving the surgical area, walking to an inventory store room and coming back to report their results. It's super inefficient and we can do better for sure," said Dr. Seals.

In addition to interventional radiology, these tools will be useful for other healthcare providers as well. "An obvious one is surgeons, but all healthcare providers could use these tools to query the electronic medical record to rapidly access key clinical data such as allergy information and history of prior surgery," said Dr. Seals.

The time physicians spend "buried behind a computer" entering data into the electronic medical record could also be automated with smart speaker technology, "helping physicians more directly connect with their patients in a meaningful way, making eye contact rather than staring at a computer screen," he noted. "In general, these smart speaker tools have the potential to make treatments more efficient, cost effective and beneficial to patients."

Dr. M. Victoria Marx, president of the Society of Interventional Radiology, also thinks smart speaker technology could add value during procedures. However, "as with everything, the devil is in the details of how well it works. Sometimes you ask Siri a question and it answers perfectly and sometimes it doesn't, but I think having that technology in there would be great. A lot of times we do have to scrub out to do something and this would help minimize or avoid that," she told the briefing.

SOURCE: http://bit.ly/2YjBr4s

Society of Interventional Radiology 2019 Annual Meeting.