Challenges, challenges, challenges. If you were to believe all that you heard about the NHS in the UK, it would be easy to assume that all aspects of the NHS are consumed by challenges. While there’s no denying it faces – and has always faced – tough times, it should not be allowed to cast a shadow over some of the laudable successes achieved in NHS Trusts, departments or even down at your local GP practice.
At our busy practice, we faced our own challenge. We had a requirement to record high quality, in-depth reports after each patient consultation. However, our former analogue recording devices – combined with secretaries typing up dictated reports – was no longer an effective or efficient process in our increasingly busy practice.
Our problems related to the recording’s unacceptable sound quality, the recurring costs of dictation tape as well as the length of time required for secretaries to type up letters and notes. However, where there’s a challenge, there’s often a solution, and ours came in the guise of Dragon Medical Practice Edition 3. We recognised that, for our needs, speech recognition gave us the potential to capture the patients’ story more accurately and convert it into a document more efficiently.
Based on the premise that most GPs or secretaries type at 40 to 50 words per minute, and that we talk three times faster than we can type, for us, Dragon Medical has delivered on its promise of considerable time savings. Despite the progress made with speech recognition, one question I still get asked a lot when talking about Dragon, is ‘does speech recognition work?’ This question is usually followed by others, like ‘Is it accurate?’ ‘Does it really save you time?’
From personal experience, I can tell you that the answer to these three questions is an emphatic ‘yes’. With respect to its accuracy – which is aided by the tailored medical dictionaries supplied with the speech recognition software – it is astonishing. I know that some GPs have had experiences of earlier versions of the software without the medical vocabularies running on older, slower PCs, but I have learnt I can trust the latest speech recognition technology’s accuracy implicitly. And, the more you use it, the better it gets. Now, I wouldn’t be without it.
But the primary reason for using Dragon is that it helps medical professionals in our single most important quest – to improve the quality of patient care. Dragon achieves this because the verbatim capture of information, encourages more data and detail to be added to a report or letter in real-time during the consultation. And the more detailed and accurate the letter or report is, the sooner the patient can receive not only the next level of treatment, but also the right treatment.
As the letter or report can now be prepared with the patient present, this means the consultation becomes a special and powerful interaction that encourages the patient to participate, with them seeing and hearing me create their report and updating or correcting any treatments in their presence. Seeing this for themselves reassures them that their report is created accurately and faithfully. I believe that this – combined with the time saving delivered by Dragon – goes a long way to delivering the compassionate patient care we all aim to achieve. Our experience shows that Dragon is a tried and tested, established technology. It is a ready-to-go, out-of-the-box solution capable of supporting the NHS and helping it to meet its challenges immediately.
About the author: Dr. Ivan Camphor is Senior Partner at Heatherlands Medical Centre in Wirral and Medical Secretary Mid-Mersey LMC.