Challenges, challenges, challenges. If you were to believe all that you heard about the NHS in the UK, it would be easy to assume that all aspects of the NHS are consumed by challenges. While there’s no denying our system faces – and has always faced – tough times, that should not cast a shadow over some of the laudable successes achieved in NHS Trusts, departments, or even down at your local GP practice.
At our busy practice, our team of three doctors treat over 4,000 patients a year. We faced our own challenges, including the requirement to record high quality, in-depth reports after each patient consultation. Our former analogue recording devices, combined with secretaries typing up dictated reports, was no longer an effective or efficient process in our increasingly busy practice. Additionally, the recordings’ unacceptable sound quality, the recurring costs of dictation tape, as well as the length of time required for secretaries to type up letters and notes, further made the process unsustainable. However, where there’s a challenge, there’s often a solution.
Clinical speech recognition technology
Based on the premise that most people type at 40 to 50 words per minute, and that we talk three times faster than we can type, we recognised that, for our needs, clinical speech recognition technology would give us the potential to capture our patients’ story more accurately and convert it into a document more efficiently. And it has delivered on its promise of considerable time savings.
Despite the technological progress made with speech recognition, one question I still get asked a lot is: “Does speech recognition actually work?” This question is usually quickly followed by others, like: “Is it accurate?” “Does it really save you time?” From personal experience, I can tell you that the answer to these three questions is an emphatic “yes.” With respect to its accuracy – which is aided by the tailored medical dictionaries supplied with the speech recognition software – it is astonishing. I have learned I can trust the latest speech recognition technology’s accuracy implicitly. And, the more you use it, the better it gets. Now, I wouldn’t be without it.
But the primary reason for using clinical speech recognition technology is that it helps medical professionals in our single most important quest – to improve the quality of patient care. Leveraging the right tools enables us to achieve this goal because the verbatim capture of information encourages more data and detail to be added to a report or letter in real-time during the consultation. And the more detailed and accurate the letter or report is, the sooner the patient can receive not only the next level of treatment, but also the right treatment.
As the letter or report can now be prepared with the patient present, this means the consultation becomes a special and powerful interaction that encourages the patient to participate, with him or her seeing and hearing me create the report and updating or correcting any treatments in their presence. Seeing this for themselves reassures them that their report is created accurately and faithfully. I believe that this – combined with the time saving delivered by clinical speech recognition technology – goes a long way to delivering the compassionate patient care we all aim to achieve. Our experience shows that this is a tried and tested, established technology. It is a ready-to-go solution to a very real challenge, and it is capable of supporting the NHS and helping it to meet its challenges immediately.