Apple iPad EHR Platform Includes New Speech-to-Text Feature

Drchrono, one of the first EHR apps for the Apple iPad, now incorporates software developer M*Modal's speech-to-text capabilities to enable physicians to dictate patients' clinical data.

Drchrono, a health care software vendor, announced it has added M*Modal's speech-to-text application to its electronic health record program for the Apple iPad. The M*Modal app allows doctors to dictate patients' diagnoses and examination results into health records.

Drchrono is a free download from Apple's iTunes App Store.

Called "Speech Understanding," the M*Modal technology provides a way for physicians to dictate patient's medical information into a structured format in EHRs. With the medical data converted into a structured, encoded format, physicians can share the data to better coordinate care.

"M*Modal believes that the integration of Speech Understanding with EMRs significantly promotes their adoption as it fits the preferred documentation workflows of physicians, permits mobile documentation in the case of an iPad with full patient context in hand, and retains the rich detail of dictated narrative information that physicians highly value," Don Fallati, senior vice president of marketing for M*Modal, wrote in an email to eWEEK.

The company's speech technology is used by more than 800 health care organizations in the United States. Clinical documentation application provider MedQuist Holdings announced on July 11 it will acquire M*Modal.

Drchrono is the first native EHR application for the Apple tablet, and M*Modal brings the first speech-to-text capabilities for the iPad, according to Drchrono. The company also offers the EHR app for the iPhone, Android or through any Web browser. Drchrono announced its agreement with M*Modal on July 19.

In addition to patients' clinical data, Drchrono's EHR app integrates with the company's SAAS (software as a service) practice-management platform to allow practices to handle medical billing and scheduling online.

Speech-to-text functionality represents a "holy grail," an essential feature doctors would like to see in EHRs, Michael Nusimow, CEO and co-founder of Drchrono, told eWEEK. Nusimow founded Drchrono along with Daniel Kivatinos in January 2009.

Allowing doctors to speak into the iPad enables them to maintain eye contact in their communication with patients, Nusimow suggested.

"Everyone's been to the doctor. If they don't make eye contact it feels awful," he said.

Speech to text helps doctors get their paperwork done while avoiding distractions that would leave them with their backs to patients, Nusimow said.

"You won't get distracted as you would with a normal computer," he said. "Speech to text really fits in well with that model because you won't be sitting there typing for 10 minutes."

As doctors recite symptoms and diagnosis codes into the iPad using a Bluetooth headset, the the software converts the information into text directly into the patient's record. A speech-to-text dialog box appears within the patient's EHR screen noting "Speech to Text in Progress." If doctors wish to end the dictation, they can click "Tap to End."

With typing a bit awkward at times on the iPad's touch-screen, the speech-to-text capabilities could help doctors as they input EHRs, Nusimow said.

The software features a customized checklist that doctors can use to check off items such as symptoms. Speech to text can help when physicians need to document abnormal conditions, Nusimow explained. "Eighty percent of the work a doctor does is incredibly routine," he said.

As for security, Drchrono as well as M*Modal's audio files stream from the cloud, so the apps don't store patient data locally on the iPad.

"If someone were to steal one of these iPads, there's no loss of patient data," Nusimow said. "I think it's much more secure because of the cloud strategy," he added. "It's like putting money in the bank rather than having it under your mattress."

Using an iPad during patient visits could lead to patients' added confidence in doctors that physicians are up on the latest technology, Nusimow suggested. "Doctors using an iPad will demonstrate to patients that they care about adopting the tools," he said.