Tags: redesigning care , technology

Physicians across the country are speaking:  they understand the value of electronic health records (EHRs) in collaborating more efficiently with their colleagues, tracking larger patient populations, and offering patients safer, more personalized care. But, they are also speaking about the administrative burden required to maintain that comprehensive patient information within an EHR. Today’s physicians face many additional clerical tasks (such as transcribing notes or navigating a computer to order a patient’s prescription) that once were either managed by administrative personnel or did not exist at all.

Partners HealthCare providers are speaking about these topics, too. Now, however, more than 3,500 of them are speaking directly to the Partners integrated electronic health record through advanced voice recognition software, saving time and mouse clicks, and creating more face-to-face time with patients.  

Recognizing the need to balance advances in technology with maintaining the patient relationship, Partners has launched clinical speech recognition software as a vital component of its Epic health record. As part of its Partners eCare initiative, Partners is now rolling out the Epic system in its hospitals, affiliates, and ambulatory locations.

Within Epic, the software replaces traditional transcription of patient notes and enables providers to navigate Epic with voice commands. It can cleanly transcribe normal speech to text, allowing clinicians to document their patient engagements more quickly and naturally than through typing. This reduces the provider documentation burden and lets them spend more time with patients. “We’ve seen the benefits of it firsthand,” says Adam Landman, MD, Chief Information Officer for Brigham and Women’s Health Care. “Clinicians from a wide range of disciplines across Partners HealthCare are using voice recognition software and have found that it helps improve the quality and efficiency of documentation.”

We’ve seen the benefits of it firsthand. Clinicians from a wide range of disciplines across Partners HealthCare are using voice recognition software and have found that it helps improve the quality and efficiency of documentation.

However, the deep integration of the software within Epic also takes “speaking” a step further. Partners providers can use voice commands – spoken phrases that execute multiple keypresses and mouse clicks within Epic – relieving the user from having to remember Epic codes and sequences. For instance, clinicians can order a panel of lab tests and frequently-ordered prescriptions by speaking in plain English: “Order my pre-op panel,” or, “Order metformin 500 daily.”

Effective training is a large part of the success of the Partners voice recognition initiative, says David Y. Ting, MD, Chief Medical Information Officer for the Massachusetts General Physicians Organization. “Provider adoption and continued usage of speech recognition is largely due to standardized training,” says Dr. Ting. “Once we show providers how easy it is to take advantage of the software’s capabilities, we find that most want to keep using it. Ultimately, it’s increasing their satisfaction with our health record and allowing them more time to connect with their patients.”

Voice recognition paired with the EHR is just the beginning. Centralized training will share the most effective techniques more broadly and soon more health professionals, including residents and nurses, will be using the software. Other initiatives will drive innovation by enhancing the software’s capabilities: pairing this technology with wireless microphones, installing it on mobile devices and capitalizing on improvements to ambient voice recognition, which allows for the transcription of more than one voice speaking simultaneously.

“As more of our hospitals and practices go-live on Epic, we’ll be able to shift our focus from implementation to the ongoing expansion of the software’s functionality and the support of our users,” says Dr. Ting. “That’s when things will start to get really exciting, especially as more providers joining Partners are able to get trained right away.”