Nuance PowerMic and Samsung Smartwatch App Connects Physicians to Speech Recognition

2015 "has turned into the year for the Internet of Things, and the phenomenon is becoming firmly entrenched in healthcare," according to Jonathon Dreyer, director of cloud and mobile solutions marketing in the Healthcare Division at Nuance Communication.

With that in mind, Nuance recently debuted several offerings that promise to unthether physicians from their desktops.

Nuance noticed mobility and portability trends in the past few years and saw that physicians were not just doing work on hospital workstations but in remote locations, such as at home. Another trend, Nuance identified was that while organizations have workstations available for physicians, they aren't always set up as dictation stations. That means there might only be a small percentage that include quality microphones to do speech recognition with Nuance's Dragon Medical dictation software and electronic health records.

Additionally, Dreyer says more provider organizations are virtualizing deployments through the use of virtual desktops, such as VMware and Citrix, and they are also deploying virtualized applications. However, there are challenges getting audio from the device into virtual settings using USB-powered microphones.

Those scenarios led Nuance to develop the PowerMic mobile app, which turns an iPhone or Android phone into a secure wireless microphone. Dreyer says having high-quality microphones in its speech recognition solutions is critical, especially in healthcare."The better audio going into our systems will have more accurate speech recognition and output," he says.

Whether over a WiFi or cell signal, the phone connects into the Nuance cloud, which is listening to workstations that have receivers and waiting to match the phone with the desktop.

"From a user perspective, physicians can literally walk up to any workstation that has the PowerMic mobile receiver waiting, whether at the hospital or at home, and through the cloud, they are instantly paired to that workstation," Dreyer says. "We've created our own channel for audio right into a workstation."

Enabling physicians to dictate notes into iPhone or Android phones frees up physicians to be more present with their patients, which is especially important given that most appointments are less than 15 minutes in length. Another benefit is that since a doctor is dictating notes into a patient's electronic medical record, the patient can hear what's being said and can correct any inaccuracies.

Nuance also announced that it is teaming up again with long-time partner Samsung to develop healthcare use cases with the Samsung Gear S smart watch. "There's been a lot of excitement around wearables, from the perspective that these devices have become more capable than what the original wave of wearables were," Dreyer noted.

"With the Samsung Gear S watch, we did a prototype powered by mobile to the watch, trying to show different ways in which there are—outside of consumer use cases—professional or clinical use cases for wearables."

The healthcare use case is similar to Nuance's PowerMic in that physicians can go to any workstation, push a button on the watch, and speak into it as a they would with a wireless microphone.

"We don't expect that users will have a full-blown desktop, tablet, or even smartphone experience on these watches," Dreyer says. "This is just another access point to get speech into the system and have the speech recognition on the desktop take over, another channel to use during micro encounters or micro transactions," Dreyer says.

Dreyer notes that a smartwatch could have a one-and-a-half-inch screen, which makes it extremely difficult to use. "Speech becomes a much more critical input as the screen real estate shrinks. Speech becomes really key, and not just the input of speech-to-text but also text-to-speech and having a dialog with the device," Dreyer says.

"There are more and more things that are communicating with one another, and being able to leverage those different touchpoints becomes extremely powerful. In the last year or so we're really starting to see this all become a reality. Once you have an infrastructure in place, there are so many more things that can get layered onto that."

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