Talking saves time for radiologists

The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital is leading the way in developing a hands-free hi-tech computer system for preparing diagnostic reports on patients.

Around half the consultant radiologists at NNUH are now using specialised voice recognition software andthe newly opened Radiology Academy, based at the Cotman Centre, is the first in the country to incorporate the new system as part of its specialist training programme.

Consultants in histopthathology – where tissue samples are analysed for diagnostic purposes – are also starting to use an adapted version of the system for their laboratory reports.

It means that reports can now be authorised and delivered to clinicians or GPs in a single process, without the need to touch the keyboard or mouse. Previously the reports would have been recorded to tape, typed by a secretary, then checked and authorised at a later date by the reporting doctor.

Originally developed to provide a hand-free command system for fighter pilots, speech recognition software was first trialled by the IT team at NNUH four years ago. Radiology took up the idea with enthusiasm and a Milton Keynes-based company, GHG Software Developments, was chosen to develop a system that would meet their needs.

Consultant radiologist Dr Graham Hurst says the system has improved efficiency and significantly reduces the time it takes to produce patient reports. “With some 200,000 radiology reports being generated every year from CT and MRI scans, it made sense to speed up the process of reporting our findings,” he explained.

“I find the great advantage of voice-recognition is that I can produce reports at the same time as examining the images on screen, then check the written report straight away, while my memory of the diagnosis is still fresh. Many GPs are linked electronically so the text report can be sent to them in a matter of seconds.”

The latest software, called ‘Talking Point’, incorporates a specialist vocabulary for Radiology and is fully integrated with both PACS – our Picture, Archive and Communication System, which displays X-ray images and scans – and the Radiology IWEB reporting system.

Malcolm Grant, director of GHG Software Developments says: “We're delighted that our system has been such a success at NNUH. Research shows that speech recognition saves money and also improves patient care. It cuts reporting times because text files can be sent electronically to GPs and other clinicians.”

Bob Ownsworth, IT engineer at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, has been closely involved in the development process, providing network facilities to store the individual speech files that are generated for each consultant. This means consultants can gain access to their speech files from any of the computers in their department.

“It’s exciting to be involved in this project,” says Bob. “Talking Point' seems very versatile and there is considerable scope for deploying this technology in other areas of the hospital, based on the success achieved in Radiology and Pathology.”


Thursday 19th of January 2006 11:00:42 AM