BSMHFT operates from over 100+ sites spread across a 172-square-mile region. Around 135 consultant teams, each comprised of a consultant and several doctors
and nurses, provide care to patients both at home and on-site. Over the years there has been a steady rise in the volume of correspondence associated with the ever-increasing demand on healthcare. Currently, a very small number of services within BSMHFT use tape-based (analogue) dictation to capture information from clinicians. Traditionally, dictation is recorded by clinicians on tapes and then ferried to and from multiple locations across the Trust to medical secretaries. The correspondence is then typed up by the secretaries and printed out for approval by the clinician before copies are posted to service users or other agencies.
Managing dictation for such a mobile workforce presented several challenges. The first was workload. "Clinicians would sometimes wait until it was convenient for them to return to base and drop off a tape with their secretary," explains Gunther Empl, ICT program manager at BSMHFT. "The secretaries ended up with one or two tapes and didn't know how many dictations were on them." A second challenge was the risk of damaged tapes, which meant that dictations would have to be redone. Finally, tapes presented a security risk. They contain private patient information, and it was important to protect the confidentiality of the recordings.
BSMHFT began looking at digital dictation solutions, most of which involved replacing tape recorders with digital recorders. But this would have only partially solved the problem as digital recorders still had to be physically returned to the office. In addition, purchasing a whole new fleet of digital recorders would have been very expensive. So the Trust took a different tack. It deployed BigHand for Healthcare, a customised digital dictation, speech recognition and clinical correspondence solution that replaces tape and paper based systems used in medical dictation, transcription and transmission. Based out of London, BigHand, a member of the BlackBerry® Alliance Program, is a leading provider of digital dictation and speech recognition technology to the UK healthcare market.