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Health + Tech | Complementary technology in health

Published:Sunday | April 7, 2019 | 12:00 AMDoug Halsall
Douglas Halsall

Technology improves overall management of healthcare. This is why we have seen an increase in digitisation efforts with respect to healthcare management. The University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) is already deep into its process of digitisation. Several other private hospitals are trying to follow suit and government facilities are moving step by step to digitise aspects of their healthcare management. Full digitisation is in the plan for the future.

Patients and other healthcare providers have expressed their satisfaction with digitised systems. I was at a recent medical event and began discussing this matter with a nurse who indicated how impressed she was with the system at the UHWI, having visited the facility as a patient. She spoke of the seamless registration and the fact that each department was able to quickly and easily access her information from the system without delay. This is what technology does – it makes life easier for everyone and improves the way the system operates. Other benefits include time saving and reduced stress.

Employee burnout is something common among medical professionals, given their sometimes very long hours and requirement to ensure that they properly document information for each patient within the small window that they have for consultation. The technology, through Electronic Health Records (EHR), provides a medium for the doctor to ensure that the information is accessible and can be easily shared and retrieved. But even this can be further improved where the note taking is concerned.

One of the immediate ways of improving this aspect of information gathering for the EHR is by introducing complementary software for the digitised systems.

Electronic health records no doubt make input and retrieval of patient information easier and provide for better continuity, ease of access, and increased standards of care. This can be further enhanced with a dictation and transcription solution. There is no doubt to the merits of these systems. They save time, they save effort, they improve workflow and they assist with medical workers’ burnout by reducing the need to do further documentation after work hours – which tend to even pile up for days.

The good thing about these solutions is that most are able to consider accents and are ‘smart’ in terms of being able to continuously learn about the user’s speech pattern, style and commonly used words and phrases. They also store the audio for a specific time if there is need to double-check accuracy of transcription. Undoubtedly, speech to text documentation makes the process at least three times faster as the medical professional has no need to wait on information to be written – there are some with speeds of 160 words per minute. The consultation can proceed without interruption while the software documents the doctor’s notes as he proceeds.

Outside of the doctor’s consultation, there are several other use cases for dictation and transcription solutions. Nurses can use this for their initial assessment of the patient, discharge summaries can be done in this way, reports, medical research and even medical-related letters can be done via transcription software.

Business Communications Company Inc, a market research company, indicates in its research in 2017 that the global market for speech recognition and transcription software will increase from US$104.4 billion in 2016 to US$184.9 billion in 2021. It has been described as an aggressive market with a high growth rate per year. This technology has softened physician’s resistance to using EHR, as it has simplified the process and taken much of the work and time out of documentation.

It comes as no surprise then that many organisations with digitised health systems are using this as part of their efforts to improve workflow. Most of these systems can easily be integrated as they adhere to global interoperability standards, one of the most common being Health Level 7 (HL7). This, therefore, makes dictation and transcription software ideally complementary to Health Information Management Systems and Medical Practice Management Systems.

- Doug Halsall is chairman and CEO of Advanced Integrated Systems. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and doug.halsall@gmail.com.