By Amy Stankiewicz
The ongoing effort to improve usability and efficiency for offices that have implemented electronic health records (EHRs) continues at a rapid pace, and two results of that effort are touch-screen and voice-recognition technologies.
Many EHR vendors are implementing these technologies into their existing products, either directly or through a third-party interface provider. iPad-native interfaces offer enhanced convenience for the busy healthcare provider who may otherwise find the standard keypad cumbersome and time-consuming during the daily patient-care routine.
Speak and succeed
Voice-recognition technology must be able to record specific, structured data in order to qualify for Meaningful Use incentive programs, as well as order medications and lab tests accurately. So how does this technology actually work?
Many voice-recognition interfaces provide what is called clinical language understanding capabilities, allowing the software to actually “listen” to a physician’s dictation and intelligently extract the data that needs to be recorded. Speech-recognition vendors also use natural language (NLP) processing technology that enables the physician to issue spoken commands to the EHR itself. Compare NLP technology to Nuance’s product known as Siri.
Much of today’s voice-recognition technology is also cloud-based, meaning that these voice-recognition products can carry “learned” data over to — and between — different mobile devices.
One thing remains to be seen, and that is whether or not this specific technology is actually trustworthy enough to interpret medication orders and lab test orders completely accurately. Continued enhancements are on the way, and we’re willing to bet that voice-recognition technology will one day soon be able to interpret physicians’ orders and place requests for medication and tests with the same consistency as a system that requires manual key-ins.
The power of touch
Another effort to enhance convenience and usability for the mobile EHR user involves development of touchscreen interfaces for iPads, iPhones and other devices. Many doctors find the need to drop what they’re doing during a patient exam to manually key in orders and other data cumbersome and detrimental to the patient experience. Touch-screen capabilities make this process faster and more intuitive.
Combined, touch-screen and voice-recognition capabilities can create a powerful experience for the busy healthcare provider who uses a mobile EHR. Stay tuned for continued innovations in these areas, particularly ones that ensure these new technologies facilitate accurate ordering as well as consistent compliance with important Meaningful Use requirements even more than they do today.