EUROPE - (HealthTech Wire / News) - European healthcare institutions worried they are turning their expensive specialists into de facto computer operators should work on making the tech easier to work with - not get rid of it.
That's the firm conviction of themedical doctor turned technologist Dr Nick Van Terheyden,  global Chief Medical Information Officer at Nuance Healthcare, the company that helps clinicians better work with complex hospital information technology (HIT).
'Speech' refers to just that - the human being's most instinctive way of communicating - which is now mature enough as a technology to allow what Van Terheyden and his team call a true 'conversational interface' to occur in the consulting room between a specialist and powerful back-end computers and databases.
"We need to put the care back into healthcare," says Van Terheyden, who worries that IT, for all its undoubted power and benefit, can be too difficult to operate for medical professionals, who end up turning into programmers by default - not caregivers. In a 2013 Virtual Assistants in Healthcare Survey, for example, four out of five physicians complained they spent more than 15% of their time on administrative, non-direct care duties.
Van Terheyden says the problem lies in the mouse and keyboard centric way we have assumed is the only way to work with computers. "Graphical user interfaces, though in many ways the best that existing technology offers in terms of using computers, are not as good as the ability to talk to the system would be preferable - especially in the healthcare context.
"A user interface that includes the ability to talk to the system is preferable," Van Terheyden says, adding that, "We will see hospital IT systems very quick and responsive in helping clinicians but which take a lot less hassle to use than today's."
Doctors now deal with multiple, complex, often incompatible technology systems all day - a factor that is now starting to affect the time and quality of that time they can spend with actual patients.
Nuance is actually taking the next step beyond just making it easier to operate or input data into the computer, though. It's building context-aware speech systems that can truly understand natural language - more specifically the language and terminology of clinicians - and which can then use that to not just record instructions but comment, make suggestions, even provide warnings if appropriate.
"All in all, this will not just boost productivity; it will get the focus back where it should be - on the patient," he promises.

Sweden leads the speech in health informatics way
Some 6000 doctors and other healthcare professionals in the Skåne region of Sweden will use speech recognition integrated into their EHR systems, thanks to technology from Nuance delivered and supported by local Nuance partner Max Manus.
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Source: HealthTech Wire
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