Remember doctors walking down halls, talking into tape recorders like Agent Dale Cooper from Twin Peaks? Now they're holding conversations with their mobile devices, taking a page from David Bowman and Frank Poole's interactions with HAL 9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Ubiquitous mobile devices such as iPhones and Androids offer both opportunities and challenges for physicians. Critical EHR data is accessible almost anywhere and near instantly, and patient notes can be recalled with a few taps on a screen. But minimized screen real estate is at a premium: What data should be shown? And that's to say nothing of the challenges of entering the data: Typing full notes on a mobile phone can be a carpal-tunnel inducing strain.
Nuance Healthcare's Jonathon Dreyer thinks these strengths could be improved – and the weaknesses could be eradicated – with strong integration of voice recognition, cloud-based applications and natural- or clinical language understanding technology. He says these tools create "better access for the physician," who can have an interactive dialogue with his or her device to access and create medical records on the fly.
Dreyer offers four reasons voice recognition and mobile devices were meant to be together.
1. Speech to text. "There's no question that these mobile devices are great for consumption of information, but when it comes to generation ... they fall flat," says Dreyer, who says he's noticed more and more people attaching external keyboards to their mobile phones, effectively turning them in to mini laptops. That's contrary to the point of a mobile device, he argues, and "even with a keyboard I can't imagine a physician entering data that way."
Speech-to-text services for mobile devices resolve that shortfall. As a majority of doctors are comfortable around dictation already, this enables them to allow patient notes or clinical information directly in to their device, on the fly. Dictating to a service that can automatically convert a doctor's speech to text lets them deliver notes in a conversational style. This is good for several reasons: It frees them up from typing on a small keypad and it means that they may include things they'd forget to type.
2. Custom commands and navigation. "You've got so much information in an EMR, especially within the confines of a four inch screen, it becomes really difficult to present that information," says Dreyer. While software vendors are getting better at choosing what data to display and when, he envisions a better approach. Voice recognition lets physicians "have a free form and flowing conversation" with their devices, "like they were actually talking to a person at their side."