MaineHealth to go live with new EHR, speech tech

Maine Medical Center, in Portland, is one of eight hospitals in the MaineHealth network deploying a new electronic health record system and speech recognition technology.

Supports 'One Patient, One Record' initiative

PORTLAND, ME  -  As it rolls out a new electronic health record system across eight hospitals, MaineHealth will also deploy speech recognition technology to make it easier and quicker to fill in the patient chart. 

MaineHealth includes Maine Medical Center in Portland, seven other hospitals across the state, as well as physician practices. 

MaineHealth will deploy Dragon Medical 360 | Network Edition from Burlington, Mass.-based Nuance Communications across the health system, which already uses Dragon Medical 360 | eScription, Nuance's hosted transcription service. eScription is what MaineHealth CIO Barry Blumenfeld, MD, describes as a backend system. The physicians dictate as they would in traditional transcription. The words run through an engine and are converted to text that is then reviewed by a transcriptionist.

By contrast, the Network Edition of Dragon will populate the chart as the physician talks into a microphone.

"This technology would recognize their speech and would fill it in as they are speaking  -  in near real-time," said Blumenfeld.

Across the country at Providence Health & Services, a similar project is under way, with a deployment of Dragon speech recognition technology to support the health system's Epic EHR at Providence's 27 hospitals and 250 clinics across five states  -  Alaska, California, Montana, Oregon and Washington.

"Dragon Medical builds upon our current Nuance-driven background speech workflow through eScription and will give physicians more documentation options," said Providence CIO Laureen O'Brien. As she sees it, the speech recognition technology will make it possible for clinician findings to be immediately part of patients' medical records and available to all care providers.

Blumenfeld, too, views speech recognition technology as an integral piece of improving accuracy and efficiency within the electronic health record  -  and also a way to lower the costs of clinical documentation and related traditional medical transcription.

But, while MaineHealth purchased an enterprise-wide license, he said, it will not be forcing doctors to use it. 

"We're not getting rid of transcription altogether," Blumenfeld said. "There are certain specialties, and there are certain areas where we may not be able to eliminate it today or, in some cases, ever. There are areas that just are resistant to that sort of change. On the other hand, there are areas that are very open to it."

Emergency Department

One area primed for adopting speech recognition technology is the emergency department, he said. It's also an area ripe for reducing costs.