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NHS health informatics specialist implements voice recognition technology at Yorkshire hospitals trust



Voice recognition (VR) technology is being used by a Yorkshire hospitals trust to reduce repetitive tasks surrounding the recording, checking and despatch of patients’ clinical notes and letters.

The Health Informatics Service (THIS) has introduced the technology to benefit its host trust – Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust (CHFT), which manages Huddersfield Royal Infirmary and Calderdale Royal Hospital in Halifax, along with community outreach services.

THIS works with public, private, and not-for-profit care providers across the UK. Clients include clinical commissioning groups, hospitals, laboratories, hospices and charities.

THIS has four main areas of services covering informatics and IT. These are operational support, professional services, website design, and information management.

Working in partnership with Nuance Dragon Medical One, a cloud-based solution hosted on Microsoft Azur, THIS is pioneering VR in CHFT’s musculoskeletal and physiotherapy services with an aim to extend its use further.

In one six-month period, staff inputted more than 40,000 minutes of text using the voice recognition technology.

Because inputting speech with voice recognition is 3-5 times faster than typing, THIS estimates VR has saved approximately 150,000 minutes (2,500 hours) that would previously been required to type up information.

Peter Howson, THIS’ Commercial Director, says: “We provided the entire business case for using voice recognition solutions across the trust, of which the application in musculoskeletal services forms one part.

“We provided technical setup and digital agile project management, defining the scope of voice recognition applications across these services.

“The outcomes include efficient, leaner, and more consistent clinical record keeping and improved professional satisfaction, with staff spending more time in caring for patients.”

Joints, muscles, and bone conditions affect one-in-four of the UK adult population and account for over 25 percent of surgical interventions nationally by the NHS, hence the need for increased efficiency.

The VR technology has enabled clinical and secretarial staff to spend more time on patient care, while minimising unwarranted variances in patients’ records, and reducing staff frustration and burn out blamed on heavy paperwork duties.

Using Nuance Dragon Medical One, each clinician reads through the relevant script displayed on-screen and uses their voice commands known as AutoTexts to add specific details, such as the individual patient’s name and medical details, at highlighted brackets tailored to the patient within the text.

Peter Howson: “Traditionally, consultants spoke into dictating machines and secretaries typed up the patient notes, which had to be checked before being filed or despatched as letters. The process could involve four handovers.

“Now with voice recognition, the clinician speaks and uses AutoTexts, the secretary checks the notes, and the notes are actioned.

“Clinicians can then focus more on patient care and secretaries can focus on other more valuable tasks relating to management of the practice or department.

“Voice recognition also removes variance and creates common quality with all notes.”

Simon Wallace, Chief Clinical Information Officer at Nuance, says: “Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust is transforming the way it delivers patient services, harnessing modern technologies to improve outcomes and support staff.

“The need for quick, quality clinical documentation has never been more important.

“Those on the front line – hospital doctors, GPs, nurses, and other healthcare professionals – are working tirelessly to provide essential services and lifesaving treatments.

“With so much strain on the NHS’s resources, it can feel as if paperwork is yet another heavy and time-intensive burden for clinical professionals. Therefore, many hospitals are turning to our speech recognition technologies.

“Not only do these technologies save time, they also enable clinical professionals to focus on what really matters – their patients.”

Reflecting on other potential applications for VR, Luke Stockdale adds: “We will look at how we scope this out into different services and departments.

“One size doesn’t fit all. We’ll look at tailoring speech recognition for different services.

“For example, how we may apply it to different wards, therapies, or occupational health, for dyslexia or for NHS staff with wrist injuries who cannot use keyboards at work.

“This is about developing digital projects with people – collaborating with client organisations and staff to design and develop the best systems.”

For more information about THIS, visit our website here.

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