The Voice of the Future?
HealthJanuary 23, 2018

The voice of the future?

How are hospitals using new voice recognition (VR) software to improve patient care?

If you have an iPhone, you're probably familiar with Siri, the intelligent personal assistant that uses voice queries and a natural language user interface to answer questions, make recommendations, and perform actions. The software adapts to users’ individual language usages, searches, and preferences with continuing use.

Similarly, Amazon's Alexa and Google Home respond to your wants and needs with the sound of your voice instructions. These cloud-based natural voice experiences offer customers a more intuitive way to interact with the technology they use every day.

Not surprisingly, this type of voice recognition software is also being used in healthcare by nurses and other clinicians to streamline documentation.

Wave of the Future

Innovative technologies that make nurses’ jobs easier and improve patient care are always welcome. Voice recognition (VR) software -- software that converts the human voice to digital text and extracts meaning from those words was previously reserved for doctors, but now some health systems are deploying the technology for nurses and ancillary providers.

Front-end speech recognition refers to the process where the dictator, or end user, speaks into a microphone or headset attached to a computer. The dictated words are displayed as they are recognized, and the dictator is expected to correct any misrecognitions.

Health systems are examining the utility, feasibility, and acceptability of VR software to document patient care in an electronic health record. In the meantime, enhancements to the speech detection capabilities and refinement of the technology, software, and processes are ongoing.

Developed as a means to better capture healthcare information and facilitate communication, VR technology has thus far been directed more towards medical staff practitioners. Physicians in radiology and pathology have been reported as early adopters of VR software. Studies in long-term-care settings have demonstrated benefits for use among nursing staff including decreased documentation burden, improved financial performance due to increased reimbursement, and decreased overtime. Reported patient outcomes include improved resident satisfaction, clinical outcomes, and caregiver communication.

The accuracy, timeliness, and critical need for clear, concurrent documentation by nursing staff are still requirements in today's fast-paced healthcare environment, where nurses are burdened with increased workloads and growing patient acuities. Technology like VR software is one solution to improving care while decreasing costs.

Success Stories

Facilities using VR software report improvements in several categories, including reduced transcription costs, reduced documentation time, and more complete patient narratives.

Speech recognition can enhance clinical documentation in many ways, especially as the demand for more documentation of every encounter is on the rise. There aren't enough experienced medical transcriptionists to meet current and future demands, according to a practice brief published by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA).

Providers can use VR software for all their progress notes, admissions, patient histories, physical exam results, and discharge summaries, many of which were previously recorded on paper. VR software can translate speech to text faster and more accurately than most can type, and dictation systems don't have typos. When the nurse is done, the hospital's EHR system is immediately updated.

The introduction of speech-recognition technology for nurses is significant because of the amount of time they typically spend on documentation. A recent study found that nurses spent more time during their workdays on documentation than on direct patient care.

But some question the viability of speech-recognition software for documentation, particularly in busy, noisy hospital environments. As the technology improves, adoption will likely increase along with it.

Are you using voice recognition software for documentation yet?

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