Did you hear that? Voice recognition may be the future — UPenn Health System CMIO shares insights

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William Hanson III, MD, chief medical information officer at Philadelphia-based UPenn Health System, discusses his top priorities as CMIO and the future of voice recognition.

Responses are lightly edited for clarity and length.

Question: How has your role as CMIO evolved over the past two to three years? How have your responsibilities changed since you took on the role?

Dr. William Hanson: Where previously the work involved deciding upon and implementing an enterprise EMR, my team and I have been involved in EMR optimization and the workflows associated with its use in the clinical environment more recently. My work also includes a growing portfolio of mobile health, telemedicine and predictive analytics projects.

Q: What do you consider your No. 1 priority as CMIO? How do you ensure you're successful?

WH: Broadly said, my main priority is to ensure that our aggregate work in the digitization of medicine is focused on improving the care of our patients and the ability of our clinicians to do their work. To do this, I need to be engaged in a continuous feedback and modification loop with patients, providers and our IT team as we roll out new technologies, releases and expectations. Much of what we've done to date has been welcomed. However, we're also aware of concerns about provider burnout and a sense that clinicians are increasingly engaged in servicing the EMR at the expense of direct patient engagement and/or their own personal time.

Q: Which apps and technologies do you find most helpful, and which do you think will be passing fads?

WH: Mobile devices and apps that connect with core clinical applications and free clinicians from desktops, pagers and phones have become essential to efficient care and enthusiastically adopted by providers while also increasingly adopted by patients. We are engaging with our patients about participation in their own care with open notes, labs and radiology results and through condition-specific apps.

While I believe augmented reality may come to have a role in medical care, I am less convinced that virtual reality will do so.

Q: How do you feel about the use of voice recognition technology, such as Amazon’s “Alexa” and Google Assistant, in healthcare? Is there a place for its use within the EHR?

WH: While Alexa, [Apple's] Siri and Google Assistant don’t yet have real, scalable applications in healthcare, I think voice recognition, when paired with artificial intelligence, may soon become a common ‘background’ technology during clinical encounters, acting as a scribe, clinical documentation assistant and potentially, a decision support tool.

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