Master’s thesis written at TalTech: voice commands in medicine help to reduce treatment errors
A Master’s thesis written at TalTech analysed an application developed in Estonia which records how nurses follow instructions with voice commands to help to reduce the number of treatment errors and improve patient safety. The purpose of the application is to avoid situations where, for example, blood compliance is not checked before a blood transfusion or a tool is not prepared before a procedure. The application provides information to nurses during procedures about the instructions and the nursing activities can be recorded with voice commands. To do this, the nurse has to say the keywords in the ear microphone, from where they reach the application in their pocket.
Treatment guidelines are national and international regulations that health professionals rely on in their work. Essential step-by-step activities from nursing instructions were programmed into the application. The use of the application is hands-free, which complies with the hospital hygiene rules. According to Hannalore Taal, the author of the Master’s thesis, similar solutions have been used elsewhere in intensive care and surgery. However, these solutions are not based on voice commands. ‘Research has shown that they help to reduce treatment errors and increase adherence to instructions to almost 100 per cent. In the case of the application developed in Estonia, the new aspect is the use of voice commands in Estonian,’ Taal said.
The application was tested by eight ICU nurses in the North Estonia Medical Centre for seven months. Feedback showed that 90 per cent of the nurses who tested the application would recommend it to their colleague. This shows that the need for such an application is high in Estonian hospitals.
The author of the Master’s thesis also said that speech recognition solutions are not yet widespread in hospitals and people have to get used to healthcare professionals who use smart solutions. ‘Some patients started to call the nurses working with the application ‘robots’. This shows that there is still explanatory work to be done among patients to improve quality,’ Taal added.
The application was developed by the Estonian digital health company Cognuse and the North Estonia Medical Centre. Today, cooperation has moved to the next phase: using the application in nursing training, especially for blood transfusions, but also in daily procedures. In addition to voice-controlled mode, visual checklists are included. In addition, the application has also been tested in West and East Tallinn Central Hospitals and the Tartu University Hospital.
The title of the thesis defended in the field of Health Care Technology at TalTech is ‘Intensiivravi digitaalse kontrollnimekirja rakendusprojekti hindamine ning tuleviku hindamis- ja arendusvajaduste kaardistamine’ (Evaluation of the implementation of an intensive care digital control checklist and mapping of future assessment and development needs). Hannalore Taal participated in the development of the application and the goal of her Master’s thesis was to evaluate its use in intensive care and to make recommendations on how to develop the application in the future and measure its impact.
Health Care Technology is an international Master’s programme at TalTech, which welcomes students from different educational backgrounds interested in healthcare, e-health, and digital solutions. Students will learn how to analyse, develop, and successfully deploy e-health technologies. Enrol in the School of Information Technologies of TalTech today!