How speech recognition technology can reduce clinical documentation workload

Activity graph for health care and digital wearable technology

The rise on rise of technology has triggered a fourth industrial revolution. No industry has been able to avoid this new paradigm – and the healthcare industry is certainly no exception. From the introduction of connected medical devices, to the introduction of the electronic health records (EHR), tech is set to change the healthcare experience for both the patient and doctor.

But as technology transforms patient expectations, the NHS is facing its own pressures. A growing and aging population, governmental reforms, and stringent funding demands are pushing healthcare professionals to breaking point as they must deliver quality medical care for a rapidly expanding list of patients, who are becoming more and more health conscious.

Face to face time with patients is frequently cited by doctors’ as their greatest motivator, yet administrative tasks are highly taxing on a doctor’s time. Most physicians report that they spend more than 50 per cent of their working day compiling, reviewing and updating clinical documentation.

As the health system powers towards its target of a paperless NHS by 2020, the archaic documentation process continues to pose a significant challenge to doctors for whom the EHRs are yet another administrative process. A more intelligent process must be instigated if healthcare professionals are to spend more time with patients while producing high quality clinical records.

A smarter approach Rather than merely expecting doctors to digitise their records, the NHS should be looking at what technologies will enable healthcare professionals to produce digital records in a more efficient and accurate way. This is not only crucial to ensure that clinical documents are prepared quickly so doctors can see their next patient, but also to support them in creating more complete records of the patient story which supports effective long term treatment.

Many health trusts are now turning to  speech recognition technology to support their practice in creating patient documents. Beyond the speed advantage of using speech-enabled clinical documentation, talking through the patients history enable doctors to provide a clearer insight into the patient’s habits and lifestyle. Recent research has shown that a significant part (68 per cent) of the patient record is ‘narrative’. This extra information can play an important role in building the real patient story, which goes beyond simply documenting symptoms and prescriptions, and supports a more holistic, preventative approach to healthcare.

Tech-enabled treatment
While some healthcare professionals may feel sceptical about introducing more technology into the doctors’ surgery, research suggests that 58% of patients feel that the use of technology in the clinical setting improves healthcare experiences.

Currently, the most notable technology in the exam room is the use of desktop computers, laptops, tablets and smartphones. 69% of people are noticing technology becoming increasingly implemented by doctors, and 97% of these people were comfortable with its use.

However, health professionals shouldn’t limit themselves to simply implementing the technology that we are more accustomed to as consumers, and instead look to the innovations that are truly revolutionising the way that people work.

Utilising speech-enabled has the ability in healthcare to give doctors more time, help them create more accurate records, and reduce the burden of the EHRs. We must harness this potential if we are to help doctors be effective and efficient at work, and provide a better patient journey.

Simon Wallace, Chief Clinical Information Officer at Nuance Communications

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