Dictation software for MU Health Care to cut costs, human error

Monday, October 15, 2012 | 2:03 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — New dictation software that will be used at MU Health Care is expected to work this way:

After patients leave the examining room, doctors look at their notes and start to talk into their computers. Seconds later, their words appear on the screen. That information is available almost immediately to the next health care provider in the system.

Last month, the UM System Board of Curators approved a deal for the dictation software between MU Health Care and Cerner Corp, which specializes in information technology for health care.

The software is expected to be deployed at the start of 2013 after the contract is signed at the end of this year. The cost is still being negotiated but is not expected to exceed $1.6 million, said Joanne Burns, who is responsible for the strategic use of technology in MU Health Care. 

When it's finalized, the new contract will be a savings for MU Health Care. Burns said the current contract for dictation costs $2.25 million.

At the core of the new tool is Dragon dictation software developed by Nuance, which specializes in providing speech and imaging technology. Dragon allows physicians and other clinicians to use voice recognition software to instantly transcribe their notes. 

The instant access is seen as a major plus.

"While using Dragon, since it’s integrated right into the system, I already have the patient’s chart open," said Thomas Selva, medical director for ambulatory care for MU Health Care.

Under the current system, physicians can choose to type out their notes, record them and have them manually transcribed by an outside transcription agency or use some combination of the two.

If they use transcriptionists the notes go back and forth between physicians and the agency for an accuracy review process and, sometimes, aren't entered into the electronic medical record for 12 to 48 hours, Burns said.

This new dictation software could help remove some of the potential for human error in the note-documentation process.

"Accuracy is absolutely a big concern," Burns said. "What this is and why it's so special for us is if you think of medical language and medical jargon, it's full of diagnoses: Instead of a cold, you have pneumonia."

Selva said, to his knowledge, the idea of having medical students use the dictation software hasn’t been brought up. MU Health Care currently doesn't have medical students dictate notes through the dictation and transcription service, partly because of the cost associated with it, but mainly for educational reasons.

"From an education perspective, I’ll tell you it’s better to learn how to write a note first before you dictate a note," Selva said.

Exposure of medical records could become a concern for patients of MU Health Care, considering that so many people will have access to their information. Burns said that is being addressed.

"We have security protocols in place to ensure patients’ information is secure while being available to care providers," Burns said. She said that in the interest of security, she could not go into detail about those protocols.

MU Health Care and Cerner Corp. have worked together on health services for more than a decade. 

Cerner, which has its headquarters in Kansas City offers health solutions to more than 9,000 facilities worldwide, according to its website.

Cerner and MU are involved in a strategic 10-year partnership that included the 2010 launch of the Tiger Institute for Heath Innovation. The partnership is designed to take the best from both organizations to innovate health care delivery and engagement with Missourians.

The institute received a $13.3 million federal grant in 2009 to create a program called LIGHT2: Leveraging Information Technology to Guide High Tech, High Touch Care.

LIGHTis expected to improve the health of Americans through the use of advanced health information technology, according to an article on the MU School of Medicine's website

This partnership is scheduled to be in place until at least 2020. 

Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey

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