Aberdeen Royal Infirmary (ARI) is the largest hospital in northern Scotland. It has around 900 beds and serves a population of over 600,000.
The Pathology Department employs 19 consultants and handles approximately 1700 tissue blocks each week; around 600 of these are biopsies. The biopsies are predominantly suspected cancers where a quick turnaround time is essential.
The department has a pool of 8 secretaries who type pathology reports and carry out other tasks for consultants. However more than half of the typists work part-time, and many of them only during the first half of the week. The result was a frequent backlog of reports waiting to be typed – and subsequent delays for patients. The Department needed a solution that would speed up the process and avoid the bottlenecks that were being encountered at the end of each week.
The department already used a digital dictation system supplied by Voice Technologies. We demonstrated the advantages of applying speech recognition to their pathology laboratory system. Using Dragon Medical, many of the pathologists now dictate biopsy reports directly to their laboratory systems, instead of sending them to secretaries. This has been a great success from day one and has relieved the pressure on the digital dictation system and the Department.
Lynne Doverty, Senior Chief Biomedical Scientist at ARI commented, “On a Friday afternoon we usually have many reports waiting in the digital dictation system. Typically, it takes until the following Tuesday to catch up. That backlog has been dramatically reduced – today we only have six.”
Initially, nine consultants were involved in piloting the new process, which was used only for small biopsies. After just three days, a further three consultants asked to use the system, and the decision was taken to increase the number of users of speech recognition in the department to twelve. Some of the early users have now started to use speech recognition to dictate more complicated reports. Those consultants not using the system have also noticed an improvement in that their dictation is taking less time to be returned. After a period of less than two weeks, there has already been a positive effect on turnaround times.
Lynne added, “Initially we were sceptical about the accuracy of speech recognition especially when we use so many medical terms. However there is a fairly extensive dictionary of terms built into the system. Apart from a few minor issues, which were quickly ironed out, we’ve found the accuracy of speech recognition to be very good”.
The most important outcome is that patient care has been improved. Getting reports out faster means that those patients who need treatment can start it earlier.
Secretarial resources can now be used to provide wider support for consultants. Indeed, one member of the secretarial team has moved to another job and this has had no impact on report turnaround times.