Over the past few years, I have tested dictation software, and while the software has improved steadily, the input methods were cumbersome. The extra steps of putting on a headset, training the software, etc. made the process too complicated for me.

I recently downloaded Dragon Dictate for the iPad® and started toying around with the app. I wanted to see if it could be a partial solution for users of our MediTouch EHR® software. I was surprised to learn that there is no training with Dragon Dictate for the iPad®. Even better, I did not need to put on a headset. I just pressed record and began speaking to the iPad®. It was a liberating experience!

Dragon Dictate for the iPad® requires a connection to the Internet because, unlike its Windows-based sister product, all of the translation is done in the “cloud”: the app is just the interface to transmit the voice file to Dragon Dictate’s Web servers. Since MediTouch® is also a cloud-based application, I was excited to see how they could work together.

Apple® does not allow Dragon Dictate to run inside of its Safari Web browser, and they treat Dragon Dictate as a separate app that cannot run simultaneously with their Web browser. Each time a user wants to dictate, the user must use the Apple® “Home” button to navigate to the Home screen on the iPad®, open Dragon Dictate, then press record, and begin the dictation. The Dragon Dictate app has a copy text feature, and after copying the text, the user must navigate back to the Home screen and then navigate back to the browser. The browser did not lose its connection to MediTouch, so I was able to double tap in any MediTouch text area and paste my dictation into MediTouch EHR. If you’re thinking, “That sounds like a lot of steps,” I would agree with you. But guess what? It only added around 10-15 seconds to my dictation process — and when compared to using the keyboard, I was still ahead on time!

I was surprised to find out that Dragon Dictate for the iPad® recognizes many medical terms. It got “theophylline”, “metastasis”, and “ampicillin”, but it did not recognize some more complex medical terms such as “thoracentisis”. When a mistake is made, the iPad® text editing is somewhat cumbersome and, because there is no training of Dragon in this version, the same error could reoccur in a future transcription.

My interest is to try to optimize ways for physicians to interact with MediTouch EHR, so can Dragon Dictate for iPad® become a useful tool for MediTouch users? The answer is yes. A good example could be in the History of Present Illness (HPI) portion of the SOAP encounter note within MediTouch. Many times a patient’s HPI is too complex or specific to be documented via pre-loaded interview questions or favorites. That type of HPI may require many lines of text to accurately document the encounter, and this type of situation is when Dragon Dictate for iPad® could be helpful and faster than the virtual keyboard on the iPad®…

Oh, and did I mention that Dragon Dictate for the iPad® is FREE.

Here is a quick review of my findings when I tested Dragon Dictate for the iPad®:

Pros

  • Free software
  • Faster than keyboard for lengthy data entry tasks
  • Recognizes many (but not all) medical terms
  • No headset or training required

Cons

  • Extra steps to dictate, copy and paste the transcription
  • Editing text on the iPad® is cumbersome
  • No training also means no easy way to teach Dragon Dictate new words…

 

I believe every MediTouch user should download Dragon Dictate for the iPad® and use it when structured pre-loaded content does not provide the solution required for a specific encounter. It does not replace structured data, and therefore the solution, for every portion of every SOAP encounter note.

Blog Note: This is the first of a series of blog posts on how certain hardware and software solutions interact with MediTouch EHR. In our next post on these topics, we will review the new iPad 2® and the new iOS operating system for iPads®.