Voice recognition AI software has improved core processes for various professions including restaurateurs, journalistsand any customer service organization that hires automated call center. For the healthcare industry, artificial intelligence for voice recognition in the exam room has gone from a simple convenience to an urgent need.
Even before the Covid-19 pandemic hit the United States and its aftermath The “Great Resignation” has taken hold in the healthcare industryburned out was a growing concern among physicians and other providers. Their work requires long hours and effective interaction with an ever-increasing number of patients. Electronic medical record (EMR) systems like Epic have transformed patient records for the better, in addition to their environmental benefits. But these benefits came at a price.
As paper records were eliminated, providers took on the burden of updating each patient’s EMR with meticulous note-taking. This created a dilemma: when should we record the notes in the EMR system? Providers can either enter notes directly into a computer during the patient visit or take notes mentally and then update the patient’s EMR. Thus, EMR technology often increased the burden on the physician’s time and could place a financial burden on the hospital itself. Because their face-to-face time is limited, patients and providers can focus on one problem during each visit and ignore any smaller medical problems. These smaller concerns may disappear or become large—in which case early intervention could prevent costly clinical care and in-person visits down the road.
The unprecedented stress that Covid-19 has placed on the US healthcare system has exacerbated many of these existing problems. A health system in Michigan introduced a pilot program in the fall of 2021 to directly address the EMR dilemma using an AI voice recognition tool called Dragon Ambient, or DAX. The promise of the technology was twofold: to restore the intimacy of the doctor-patient interaction and to save the provider time spent updating the EMR.
DAX includes a smartphone app that sits in the exam room or anywhere near the provider and patient. Pressing a button activates the voice recognition tool. Every word of the visit is then recorded and transcribed. Nuance, the parent company of DAX, employs a human proofreader to control the quality of transcriptions. Over time, the AI software effectively “learns” how to transcribe better for individual speakers based on the proofreader’s adjustments.
The result is a safe, secure and accurate tool that delivers on its promise to save time and restore intimacy in the exam room. By recording and transcribing the entire patient visit in a way that handwritten notes cannot (either offline or in the EMR), the burden on healthcare providers is reduced. One saw a drop of 31 minutes per day in documentation. Another provider saw an average reduction of 5 minutes in documentation time per meeting. By giving the patient more leeway to express their full range of medical concerns, both patient and provider potentially incur less costs down the road.
From the initial pilot program that included 13 providers, the health system has grown to 150 providers using DAX. Feedback from both sides has been overwhelmingly positive, with patients and providers reporting that their interactions seem less transactional.
Thus, AI voice recognition software has the potential to be the rare smartphone app that encourages face-to-face interactions. Its early results suggest the technology could be a rule changer for a healthcare industry that desperately needs one, boosting morale in the short term while potentially saving money along the way.
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