5 tips for rolling out successful healthcare speech recognition projects

hands and fingers


1. Map out and engage ALL your stakeholders including your medical secretaries and back-office support team

Speech recognition rollouts are usually part of a broader healthcare efficiency strategy which will involve new service models and ways of working. Historic workflows involving clinicians, medical secretaries and other back-office resources should all be considered and reviewed when planning the new workflows.  The early engagement of all your support and back-office resources are essential. Why? Because the devil is often in the detail. Medical secretary and other administration resources will have detailed knowledge of processes, links to interfacing organisations, current snags and great ideas about how to overcome them. Also, they are often the personal interface with the patient.  Their positive involvement can be the difference between project success and failure.

2. Put yourself in your clinicians’ shoes

The relationship between clinicians and IT departments is not always easy. Clinicians criticise IT for not understanding their daily lives and vice versa. Several practical examples have revealed the benefits of the IT team immersing themselves in the daily life of the clinicians. At Saint-Joseph Hospital in Paris, actively listening to the needs of medical practitioners was a priority for the IT team who spent time in each department, observing the uses of speech recognition in medical practice. They were able to detect problems that the project team had not previously raised: clinicians were accustomed to leaving an audio or paper note for the secretary advising them of a specific action to take. With front-end speech recognition clinicians weren’t able to do this in the same way. Instead, the IT team created a “Post-it” in the EPR that delivered the same result.
Get down onto the ‘shop floor’, get close to your clinicians and put yourself in their shoes. Technology should serve the clinicians – not the other way around.

3. Training, training, training

At the first level, speech recognition training is quick and easy. At St Joseph it took less than 4 weeks for 100 clinicians to be operational. However, for clinicians to maximise the full potential and power of speech recognition in their day-to-day work they must master a multitude of standard and customised features and commands. For example, for a medical note or report, rather than dictating and correcting as you go along it is preferable to dictate the entire text first and then correct any errors by voice once that segment of dictation has ended. In this way the software learns from its errors. Without correction, just like any individual, the software will repeat its error.
Training doesn’t have to take place in a classroom environment. If the basics are in place then innovative ways of delivering training on-the-job, as at Alderhey Children’s Hospital, can be efficient and effective.

4. Support, support, support

Deploying a dedicated support team to help clinicians in real-time is a common feature of successful projects. In all healthcare organisations that have successfully completed their projects, the IT team have set up a system to quickly respond to clinicians’ requests, identify bottlenecks and speedily resolve any user problems. At Saint-Joseph Hospital the IT Director was part of the support team and included himself on the ‘hotline’ for clinicians to report difficulties or request support. direct to his mobile phone. Finding and taking ownership of a solution always requires supervision, even when the solution is easy to use.

5. The end of the beginning

Speech recognition is not a secret sauce although the new generation of technology based on deep learning and neural networks is truly amazing in terms of its immediacy, precision and quality. Once your clinicians are using speech recognition on a daily basis and are beginning to understand and feel the benefits it is time to refine the use of automatic templates and voice commands customised to their workflows and specialties. At CHU Nantes, the project team organise regular meetings with clinicians in order to share experiences and answer outstanding questions. At St-Joseph Hospital in Paris they distribute newsletters to share tips and tricks from colleagues.

Each project is unique but in our experience these 5 simple tips hold true for all successful healthcare speech recognition projects.

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About Sarah Fisher

Sarah Fisher is regional marketing manager at Nuance healthcare division covering UK, Ireland and APAC. Sarah has 25 years in marketing and sales at companies including Xerox, Siemens and Cisco. A spell at Novartis leading a team to deliver ‘more-than-medicines’ solutions in UK healthcare combined her degree and a first job in Pharmacology research with a passion for the potential of healthcare IT to overcome the many challenges faced by all healthcare systems. In her spare time Sarah leaps fences and tackles tricky trails pursuing her hobbies of horse trials and mountain biking.