Nuance Communications, Inc., has announced that Plymouth Hospital’s Histopathology Laboratory has dramatically cut patient report turnaround times and now exceeds currently set national targets for turnaround times, using a new workflow process that features Nuance Dragon Medical for Pathology, Nuance’s front-end speech recognition solution for healthcare. The dramatic improvements that the workflow has driven in productivity and patient care achievements, post deployment, has helped the Histopathology Laboratory win a £50,000 NHS Innovation Award, which Plymouth has invested to further improve its department.

Following the deployment, the turnaround of new cases was boosted from the previous 40% within 10 days, to more than 80% in 10 days – thus exceeding national targets – while the Histopathology laboratory’s backlog of approximately 600 cases was cleared completely. The department is also enjoying savings that equate to one assistant per session, or the equivalent of seven man-hours per day. Other time saving achievements result from the automatic entering of data into the hospital’s Laboratory Information System, saving pathologists approximately 45 minutes a day. Formerly, turnaround times of more than ten weeks were typical, resulting in delays in the diagnosis of cancer – the sooner a histological diagnosis can be made, the sooner the patient can receive not only the next level of treatment, but also the right treatment.

These achievements began when the department reviewed its internal workflow processes. It introduced a streaming process that identified priority cases and set up a new workflow for cases, while scheduling tasks more efficiently. The final process involved the deployment of speech recognition solution, in the form of Nuance Dragon Medical. It enables physicians to dictate real-time into EHRs in their own words, which allows them to review, sign and make their notes available for other clinicians, instantly. Its increased accuracy means fewer errors gives clinicians more time with patients, improving both quality of care and patient satisfaction.

Commenting on the deployment, Dean Harmse, clinical lead for specimen dissection at Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “At a time when the NHS needs to make £20B of cost savings by 2015 and move from paper to paperless records by 2018 to increase efficiency, our experience of deploying Nuance Dragon Medical shows that speech recognition can make a major contribution to these goals. Our department has demonstrated that today’s speech recognition solutions can deliver quantifiable proof points relating to saved time and human resource while increasing efficiency to benefit and improve patient care.”

In day to day use, pathologists benefit from speech recognition being time neutral; detailed reports are now created both accurately and in real-time, which makes the process much more convenient for them. Unlike previously, there are no delays waiting for a secretary to type up the report, preventing a typing backlog from building up. The secretary is then free to conduct tasks that ease the burden on the pathologist, allowing them to concentrate on the important issue of reporting of cases, rather than on administrative tasks.

As 2018 and the introduction of EHRs gets closer, speech-based solutions will enable medical professionals to more quickly navigate the EHR, data, diagnosis and prescription options. Looking ahead, Virtual Assistants – like Nuance’s Florence application developed for healthcare – will further help medical professionals more easily embrace this inevitable shift to a digital patient record workflow.

Nuance is deeply invested in a new generation of sophisticated and powerful applications underpinned by voice and Clinical Language Understanding (CLU) that reinvents the way doctors and patients experience healthcare, providing direct access to the healthcare information that matters most. Already, more than 750 global developers are already utilising Nuance technology to humanise healthcare and fulfil the promise of virtual assistants in medicine.

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