Faster reports and less backlog in the provincial transcription service

September 28, 2016

They may not know it but patients are already seeing the benefits of a provincial transcription service launched only five months ago.

How and when medical information makes it into a patient’s medical record isn’t necessarily visible to the patient but it can be critical to receiving high quality care. When their physician receives timely medical reports about tests and procedures, it means their treatment is more efficient and effective.

Follow up with patients has significantly improved,” says Dr. Lyle Williams (pictured left), a physician and senior medical officer in Heartland Health Region, among the first three regions to implement the new service. “We are no longer running around looking for information as it is now available in the right place at the right time. Continuity of care is very good and it is great for all providers to be on the same page.

Along with Heartland, Sun Country and Prairie North are on the new provincial transcription service. They are turning medical reports around within 24 hours 45 per cent of the time – an improvement from 22 per cent or less in June.

“As a health system, our goal is to transcribe and distribute all acute care reports within 24 hours so that providers have what they need to better care for their patients,” said Julie Johnson, director of the provincial transcription service. “I’m happy to report we’re making great progress toward that goal!”

The current backlog of reports that have been dictated but not yet transcribed also continues to decrease. At the beginning of August, 2,800 minutes of dictation were waiting to be transcribed within the provincial transcription service. By Sept. 28, the backlog was down to 434 minutes.

Another measure is that in July, the oldest dictation in the system was 50 days old; as of Sept. 28, the oldest dictation waiting to be transcribed was six days old.

The turnaround time is so quick now,” added Dr. Ilana Streng-Coetzee. “It’s way better for patients.

Accounting for these gains

Earlier this year, Sun Country, Prairie North and Heartland health regions implemented state-of-the-art voice recognition software called Fluency for Transcription (FFT) to support acute care dictation and transcription work.

FFT allows physicians and other care providers to create electronic audio files of their dictations. These are then reviewed and edited by transcriptionist before being distributed. Every time someone dictates and a transcriptionist makes edits, the technology “learns” that person’s speech patterns and the accuracy of dictations improves. The software is gradually being introduced to all health regions in the province.

The technology is a core component of the new provincial transcription service. Other components include the use of a standardized set of provincial templates, the establishment of a provincial pool of acute care transcription work, and the movement of that transcription work across geographic boundaries.

Being able to move work between the regions means we can balance the workload like never before,” said Lorne Shiplack, manager of the provincial transcription service. “If a transcriptionist in one region has time in their schedule, that person can do work for one of the other two regions. That’s one of the great things about having all three regions on the same provincial system, with many more regions still to come.”

Physicians are now using the voice recognition capabilities of FFT to dictate reports after patient care events. While the software is learning a physician’s voice, transcriptionists continue to listen to the playback, type up the recording and make edits as needed. Once a physician’s dictations are 80 per cent accurate or better, transcriptionists who have been trained on automatic speech recognized reporting start seeing that physician’s dictations show up as text on their screen. Then, they simply edit that text as required. This results in further efficiencies over time.

Having more transcriptionists available to do acute care work at the provincial level has definitely helped,” said Johnson. “Four casual transcriptionists from Regina Qu’Appelle, Prairie North and Kelsey Trail health regions have also been trained on FFT and are able to transcribe discharge summaries for other regions. This approach really puts the needs of patients first.

The team at 3sHealth is working with local transition teams in three more health regions to enable their transition to the provincial transcription service this fall. Cypress Health Region is due to come on to the provincial service on Oct. 24, followed by Saskatoon on Nov. 15 and Prince Albert Parkland on Dec. 5.

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