Nuance demos virtual healthcare assistant

Speech software company Nuance has demonstrated how a voice-based user interface could streamline medical consultation

Speech software company Nuance Communications has demonstrated how a voice-based user interface, dubbed Florence, could streamline medical consultation.

The technology, which interfaces speech technology with clinical IT systems, could improve the NHS IT system, reducing the paperwork backlog and raising the standard of care. It could also contribute to the adoption of patient Electronic Health Records (EHR), enabling the NHS to move closer to becoming a paperless organisation.

Florence is a prototype of a virtual healthcare assistant, which can understand the clinician’s voice and convert text into speech. The system demonstrates how speech technology could be applied in a healthcare environment.

During a demo, Nuance showed how a clinician could ask Florence to pull in a patient's electronic healthcare record. However, the interface's most ambitious objective is to use a medical database to cross-reference drug prescriptions with information available on drugs and patients. The system could potentially warn the clinician if the prescribed medication clashes with other medicine or conditions that a patient has.

Nick van Terheyden (pictured), chief medical information officer at Nuance Communications, showed how Florence could speak to the GP after checking the database to warn that the prescription was incompatible with other drugs.

He said Nuance’s Florence software could help medical professionals to focus more on patient care, and less on administration, as well as keep practitioners up to date with the latest medical information, leading to less human error and a better standard of care.

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