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Posted on May 05, 2021

Cloud technology, time-saving voice recognition, and morale in the time of COVID

By James McPherson, CEO, Voice Technologies

Low on time and morale?

One thing we all have a finite amount of is time. Having worked with medical practices in England and Scotland for over a decade, I have a pretty good grasp of just how frustrating limited time with patients can be for General Practitioners (GPs). The constant race against the clock isn’t just confined to doctor-patient consultations and nurse practitioner appointments either.

I hear non-clinical and support staff as well as GPs all referring to the sheer amount of paperwork that constantly results in admin being done outside working hours, encroaching on what should be personal time and contributing significantly to a poor work-life balance for those working in medical practices.

And all of this was before COVID-19 arrived. In the words of one practice manager in 2020: “…the COVID-19 situation has exploded. Everything has gone mad. We are relentlessly inundated with patient coronavirus enquiries and anxieties…”

Workloads that feel insurmountable and working within time-constraints often lead to low morale for healthcare workers which is a growing concern for everyone. After all, each of us is a consumer of the GP service. Those of us in the business of supporting our frontline healthcare providers need to constantly ask ourselves, how can we improve and enhance their working lives? I’m in the fortunate position of being able to do just that with cloud-based technologies, use of which continues to grow significantly since 2020.

Time-saving technology for medical practices

Of course, you can’t buy time but you can buy technology like cloud-based speech recognition that saves significant amounts of time (it’s three times faster than typing*) so that, almost over-night, practice staff find themselves freed-up for what they trained to do and what gives them most satisfaction, as well as going home on time (or stopping work on time for those working from home). It transforms their working lives and, in the process, makes them happier.

GPs have adapted to the constraints the pandemic has imposed on their working lives in all sorts of ways, which itself can put another strain on their workload. The idea of introducing yet another new technology begs the question, ‘how can I take time to set up and learn a new system when I’m already under pressure with the workload I have?’ The answer is to be sure you’re committing to a system that’s already proven to integrate with the existing systems in your medical practice and that’s designed to be intuitive for new members of staff.

Another barrier that often crops up is one based on historic use of voice-to-text. As a GP, you may be understandably sceptical about just how good speech recognition is for consultation notes – after all, Alexa at home doesn’t have to understand clinical terminology or continual speech input into large paragraphs of text.

It’s fair to say that a decade ago, prior to additional of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Cloud Technologies, accuracy rates weren’t anywhere near as high as they are today straight out of the box– they’re now typically up to 99 per cent accurate* – as specialised vocabulary is built-in.

In the early days too, different accents would trip up the software and training would be required. Again, that’s not an issue now with AI in software such as Dragon Medical One ‘learning’ your accent, as well as commands and preferences and continuously updating and improving your voice profile while you just gain the benefits from using the system.

I’ve seen the transformational effect of speech recognition time and time again and it’s honestly the most satisfying part of my job. Shortly after moving to a voice-to-text system, the same practice manager said: “Voice recognition has been a godsend for speeding up consultation notes recording.” She went on to talk about how much happier everyone was because working with the speech recognition software meant they could spend more time with patients as consultation notes have been simplified from a four-step process into one step.

It takes quite something to boost morale for the healthcare workers in the time of COVID and, though nothing is a silver bullet, cloud-based technology has come into its own over the last year and is genuinely helping to improve working lives in medical practices across the UK.

* Source: Nuance Communications, Inc.

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James McPherson, CEO, Voice Technologies