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Voice activated data input in frontline health and care services

Kirsty Marrs |29, April, 2022

by Cito Maramba

In June 2020, EPIC hosted a webinar to discuss the use of voice recognition and input technology for data entry in frontline health and care services. The panelist were Tristan Coombe and Sharon Evans from the School of Nursing, Faculty of Health, University of Plymouth, and Wo King from Hi9.

The webinar was moderated by Cito Maramba from the EPIC project, University of Plymouth. In the webinar, we explored the following:

  • Potential benefits of voice recognition
  • Current issues in the use of voice recognition technology in health care
  • Research opportunities
  • A demonstration of Vivabot, a voice recognition technology to allow community nurses to complete a wound assessment

The exchange of ideas was quite interesting, which we summarise below:

A Royal College of Nursing Survey in 2019 identified excessive paperwork as the most common complaint regarding non nursing activities and reduces the amount of time available for direct patient care. With recent advancements in technology, voice recognition was identified as one solution for solving this problem.

The potential benefits of voice recognition technology were cited:

  • Allow direct data entry, reduces administrative burden and contemporaneous documentation
  • Reduces need to touch surfaces, including keyboards, which are a source of contamination in 95% of cases
  • May allow more time for direct patient care
  • Already used in a range of setting, Radiology, Emergency Medicine, patient consultation

We presented a video demonstrating a proof of concept of the VivaBot, a device which utilises speech recognition technologies to allow community nurses to complete a wound assessment. The video can be viewed below:

We then touched on the following issues for using voice recognition in primary care:

  • Wide range of Word Error Rate across most of the studies looked at – this could result in clinical safety issues.
  • Semantic errors regarding medication names may be common.
  • May not save time in terms of documentation, correcting error and costs for other services (i.e. transcriptions services).
  • Diverse findings in various studies.
  • Lack of contemporary research in the nursing setting and community setting, only 6.6% of studies looked at nursing in a 2019 systematic review
  • But, accuracy is improving at least 0.03% per year.

In the ensuing discussion the following points were raised:

  • The need to involve the service users as early as possible in the adoption of voice recognition technology in primary care, to guide development and for end user testing.
  • Investigate the security of the technology, making sure it records voices only when necessary (I.e. not “listening all the time”), and that the data is stored securely, with the service user having control over their own data.
  • The need for a more structured input of data to avoid errors in recognition.
  • With the current situation, this technology could reduce infections, especially COVID-19, by reducing exposure of health care professionals to possible carriers. Instead of having to communicate face-to-face, the service user could enter their own data using voice, into a voice recognition device, (e.g., smart speaker).
  • One possible use for this is for data collection in a pre-vaccination protocol. The possibility was raised of developing this for the flu vaccination programme or even the COVID-19 vaccine currently being researched.

If you would like to watch the recording of the session, you can access this online.

What support could EPIC offer to Cornish SMEs interested in developing voice technology that could be used in health and care?

EPIC can support eligible start-ups, Small and Medium sized Enterprises (SMEs) and social enterprises to explore the innovation of voice technology for health and care uses/

In the first phase (2017-2020) the EPIC project supported several projects looking to enhance the use of technology within the care sector.

We can support a range of businesses based in the region, perhaps you are an established business with an interest in pivoting your product to the health and social care market?

Perhaps you already have an eHealth product you would like to develop further or trial? Or perhaps you are an individual or student interested in establishing a new start up business?

The support is entirely bespoke for each business and could include access to funding through our challenge fund, the opportunity to be linked to a University of Plymouth student to support innovations through partly funded internships, academic support from the EPIC team to evaluate ideas or facilitate co design processes and piloting.

If you have ideas in the area of voice technology, why not get in touch with EPIC to discuss further? Feel free to email or for further information specifically on our business support, contact our Business Engagement Manager