Where is Voice Recognition in EHR Headed?

Posted on August 22, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I’ve long been interested in voice recognition together with EHR software. In many ways it just makes sense to use voice recognition in healthcare. There was so much dictation in healthcare, that you’d think that the move to voice recognition would be the obvious move. The reality however has been quite different. There are those who love voice recognition and those who’ve hated it.

One of the major problems with voice recognition is how you integrate the popular EHR template documentation methods with voice. Sure, almost every EHR vendor can do free text boxes as well, but in order to get all the granular data it’s meant that doctors have done a mix of clicking a lot of boxes together with some voice recognition.

A few years ago, I started to see how EHR voice recognition could be different when I saw the Dragon Medical Enabled Chart Talk EHR. It was literally a night and day difference between dragon on other EHR software and the dragon embedded into Chart Talk. You could see so much more potential for voice documentation when it was deeply embedded into the EHR software.

Needless to say, I was intrigued when I was approached by the people at NoteSwift. They’d taken a number of EHR software: Allscripts Pro, Allscripts TouchWorks, Amazing Charts, and Aprima and deeply integrated voice into the EHR documentation experience. From my perspective, it was providing Chart Talk EHR like voice capabilities in a wide variety of EHR vendors.

To see what I mean, check out this demo video of NoteSwift integrated with Allscripts Pro:

You can see a similar voice recognition demo with Amazing Charts if you prefer. No doubt, one of the biggest complaints with EHR software is the number of clicks that are required. I’ve argued a number of times that number of clicks is not the issue people make it out to be. Or at least that the number of clicks can be offset with proper training and an EHR that provides quick and consistent responses to clicks (see my piano analogy and Not All EHR Clicks Are Evil posts). However, I’m still interested in ways to improve the efficiency of a doctor and voice recognition is one possibility.

I talked with a number of NoteSwift customers about their experience with the product. First, I was intrigued that the EHR vendors themselves are telling their customers about NoteSwift. That’s a pretty rare thing. When looking at adoption of NoteSwift by these practices, it seemed that doctor’s perceptions of voice recognition are carrying over to NoteSwift. I’ll be interested to see how this changes over time. Will the voice recognition doctors using NoteSwift start going home early with their charts done while the other doctors are still clicking away? Once that happens enough times, you can be sure the other doctors will take note.

One of the NoteSwift customers I talked to did note the following, “It does require them to take the time up front to set it up correctly and my guess is that this is the number one reason that some do not use NoteSwift.” I asked this same question of NoteSwift and they pointed to the Dragon training that’s long been required for voice recognition to be effective (although, Dragon has come a long way in this regard as well). While I think NoteSwift still has some learning curve, I think it’s likely easier to learn than Dragon because of how deeply integrated it is into the EHR software’s terminology.

I didn’t dig into the details of this, but NoteSwift suggested that it was less likely to break during an EHR upgrade as well. Master Dragon users will find this intriguing since they’ve likely had a macro break after their EHR gets upgraded.

I’ll be interested to watch this space evolve. I won’t be surprised if Nuance buys up NoteSwift once they’ve integrated with enough EHR vendors. Then, the tight NoteSwift voice integrations would come native with Dragon Medical. Seems like a good win win all around.

Looking into the future, I’ll be watching to see how new doctors approach documentation. Most of them can touch type and are use to clicking a lot. Will those new “digital native” doctors be interested in learning voice? Then again, many of them are using Siri and other voice recognition on their phone as well. So, you could make the case that they’re ready for voice enabled technologies.

My gut tells me that the majority of EHR users will still not opt for a voice enabled solution. Some just don’t feel comfortable with the technology at all. However, with advances like what NoteSwift is doing, it may open voice to a new set of users along with those who miss the days of dictation.