The world of health care is like a living library of never-ending stories. With every visit to a hospital, clinic or doctor’s office, patients have something new to add to their medical history.
A patient’s medical story is documented in what is known as a medical record. It describes every encounter a patient has with the health-care professionals in their circle of care, including their reasons for seeking medical attention, symptoms they have experienced, previous diagnoses and the treatment options provided.
All of this information, combined with physical exams, diagnostic and laboratory test results and more, make up the collection of a patient’s unique medical story.
In August 2011, Eastern Health introduced a dictation system, or more commonly known as voice recognition technology. It enables physicians to create their own patient reports electronically, by dictating to their personal computer, where the system recognizes his/her individual speech – and their reports are transcribed in real time.
So why is this important?
Simply put, spending less time doing manual paperwork means more time spent with patients. It not only enables physicians to use their time more efficiently – but it improves the overall patient experience.
Just ask Dr. Eric Stone, a cardiologist with Eastern Health who has been seeing adult patients with a range of cardiac-related problems since July 1982.
In December 2013, Dr. Eric Stone became Eastern Health’s first physician activated for front-end speech – which means he was able to dictate, edit and sign reports all in one single session.
“The main improvement voice recognition software brings to patient care is having reports immediately available to other physicians who are also involved in the care of patients,” Dr. Stone says. “This results in care plans being translated into action very quickly!”
Through the transcription and editing process, the speech recognition engine continuously refines the provider’s dictation style. In other words, it gets ‘smarter’ over time, learning the individual’s speech nuances and improving the speech recognition accuracy.
And what does that mean for patients?
- improved report turnaround times;
- decreased transcription costs;
- faster report distribution to end users; and
- improved patient care as a result of timely reports, enabling effective communication between healthcare providers.
Reaping the benefits
Using voice recognition software at Eastern Health is still in relatively early stages, but the number of users is growing! Currently, Eastern Health has 49 providers who are activated for front-end speech and to date, the feedback by users have been tremendously positive.
Learning how to use the system can take a little time, but the benefits are worth it, according to Dr. Stone.
“At the end of a day, I have no uncompleted reports and can leave the hospital confident that the paperwork has all been done,” he adds. “Having reports available immediately also saves me time in communicating with other physicians.”
Voice recognition technology means physicians now have the ability to quickly infuse a patient’s record with their interpretations, assessments and treatment plans. Furthermore, all members within a patient’s circle of care have faster access to the most up-to-date information. This process leads to better decision-making for health-care professionals, and most importantly, enhanced patient care!
The bottom line? A more complete story….that aims for a happy ending! ■
This story was written by Agnes Butler, manager of e-documentation in Eastern Health’s Health Information Services Department.