ITAC: hands-free nursing through voice-activated documentation

Aged care software vendor HealthMetrics has released a voice-activated, hands-free communication system that allows nurses to document care processes at the bedside by speaking into a lightweight headset, with the notes then integrated into HealthMetrics' eCase clinical software.

Based on the AccuNurse technology from US company Vocollect Healthcare Solutions, now owned by Honeywell, the voice recognition technology allows for a two-way dialogue between the nurse and the system, with the nurse able to ask questions and call for assistance as well as receive prompts on care processes.

While the underlying voice recognition technology is based on an algorithm originally developed by Nuance Communications, makers of DragonDictate software, AccuNurse is not a dictation system.

Rather, it acts as a “clinician in the ear”, allowing the nurse to ask questions and receive a response in real-time. It also has the ability to block out ambient noise and only recognise the user's voice commands.

HealthMetrics has rebadged the technology for the Australian aged care market as eCase Hands-Free. HealthMetrics CEO Steven Strange said four of his aged care clients had committed to trialling the system later this year, and there are also plans to launch a similar system aimed at acute care nurses.

Mr Strange said one of the main benefits of the technology is that it allows nurses to complete their documentation at the bedside, without having to enter data into a computer or a paper chart.

“They are also able to page other staff if they need assistance, without having to leave the patient's bedside,” Mr Strange said.

Demonstrating the system at the ITAC conference in Hobart today, voice recognition technology specialist Rizan Mawzoon said the system used two microphones, one that recognises the nurse's voice after some basic training and one to sense ambient noise.

“It can then cancel out all of that other noise, which is important in aged care where there are other patients and staff,” Mr Mawzoon said. “It also senses the vibration of your voice, so even if you have a blocked nose it can recognise your voice.”

AccuNurse can also be told to go to sleep when not needed. When it is woken up, it asks the user to repeat a couple of words to re-establish voice recognition.

In addition to common documentation and taking notes, the system can be used for handover. Rather than a face-to-face handover to the next shift, the incoming nurse can listen to a recorded message from the previous shift as they walk to the ward or room. Nurses can also call up all of the resident or patient's details and be prompted to fulfil certain tasks.

The headset leads to a lightweight receiver that can be attached to a belt, and which communicates with a server by WiFi. Messages are sent to and from the clinical record using the HL7 standard.

Mr Strange said older nurses or those unfamiliar with technology found the system easy to use, as the spoken word is far simpler than writing notes into a computer. It also means that the documentation is completed for each patient in real time, rather than all at once at the end of a shift.

Posted in Aged Care

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