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Voice Recognition Tools Make Rounds At Hospitals

Voice technologies help doctors and nurses streamline manual work, saving time and money.

Voice technology is the latest tool healthcare providers are adopting to cut back on time-consuming manual processes, freeing clinicians to spend more time with patients and reduce costs.

At Butler Memorial Hospital, voice-assisted technology has dramatically reduced the amount of time the Butler, Pa., hospital's team of intravenous nurses spends recording information in patients' charts and on other administrative tasks. And at the Cleveland Clinic's Fairview Hospital doctors are using speech recognition to record notes in patients' e-medical records.

Butler recently completed a pilot project where three IV nurses used Vocollect's AccuNurse hands-free, voice-assisted technology along with Boston Software System's workflow automation tools. The nurses were able to cut the time they spend on phone calls and manual processes, including patient record documentation, by at least 75%.

Now, Butler is rolling out the voice technology for its full IV team of four nurses and seven other clinicians to use for patient care throughout the facility.

The productivity boost from the voice-assisted tools also helps with the hospital's expansion plans, says Dr. Tom McGill, Butler VP of quality and safety. Butler will soon add about 70 beds--growing from 235 beds now to more than 300--but it won't need to expand the IV nursing team because of the timesavings from the voice-assisted technology, McGill says.

In the past, when a patient needed IV care, such as a change in the intravenous medication being administered, an IV nurse would be paged. The nurse would have to call the patient's nursing station or the doctor requesting the IV to obtain details. The nurse then would prioritize the request with all the existing IV orders. Once IV care was completed, nurses would record what they did in the patient's e-medical record.

With the AccuNurse--which combines the use of speech recognition and synthesis for charting and communication--Butler's IV nurses wear lightweight headsets and small pocket-sized wireless devices that enable them to hear personalized care instructions and other information about patients' IV needs.

IV requests are entered into Butler's computer system, which sends them through the Vocollect system to the appropriate headset. IV nurses listen to details about new orders and use the system to prioritize IV orders.

When the they finish caring for a patient, nurses record what they did in the patient's e-medical record using voice commands. "The nurses can document as they're walking to the next patient's room," said McGill. Once they finish with one patient, nurses say "next task" to obtain instructions for the next patient, McGill said.

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