by adgrooms on May 15, 2019

The other morning for breakfast, I ordered eggs and a biscuit, but they brought me eggs and bacon. It seems like a pretty minor mistake in the grand scheme of things, but when messages are miscommunicated in a clinical environment, it is patient safety that takes a toll. So, what can technology do to help in a clinical setting?

We always talk about face to face communication being hampered by technology because technology distracts people and blocks them from engaging. What if we used it to enhance verbal communication?

Everything old is new again. Medical transcription has existed for more than a century. It originated with medical stenographers taking dictation into shorthand. Onsite stenographers were replaced when recording devices became widely available, but human transcribers still recorded the notes, if asynchronously. When EHRs were introduced, they seemed to take transcribers out of the process, which placed the burden of data entry on physicians. But now the misstep seems to have been caught and transcription is returning in all its forms and more. The new approach is to use voice recognition in dictation. Instead of using a transcriptionist, a doctor can dictate to the software and have notes entered into a patient record, which, arguably increases speed and accuracy.

Even the best of listeners, in a noisy, confusing environment, can get words mixed up. Headsets can be used between team members to take away background noise and improve clarity in conversations. This increases the mobility of a team as the headset would allow them to coordinate as they move between rooms. And it decreases the time it takes to connect with a team member.

Recording patient interaction is a good way to document how a patient is vocalizing how they are feeling. Sometimes reviewing the conversation or having someone else hear the interaction can bring to light nuances or words that were missed during the live interaction. This can also be used as a valuable teaching tool when trying to improve provider-patient interaction.

Where else can we use technology to assist verbal communication? There will always be verbal communication in a clinical setting, and we can continue to implement and improve technologies that help fill in the gaps where communication is falling short.