The Sennheiser Memory mic, adding to the new generation of semi-professional equipment that is helping the need for high quality audio in parallel markets that until now, did not have the budgets to achieve ‘great’ results.
As part of training to be a General Practitioner, trainee doctors have to be observed interacting with patients. This is essential as giving feedback to the doctor as well as getting it from the patient helps their development. As anyone who has been to see their GP knows, they will listen and try and understanding what is going on to help make a diagnosis. These communication skills are what build trust and a successful relationship. A key enabler of this observation (if the doctor is not being directly observed) is video footage of the consultation which is subsequently reviewed by the doctor’s supervisor, critically appraised and feedback delivered. Traditionally, a camcorder will have been used but with the advent of smartphones, this is changing (although see below regarding the confidentiality issues that we/you may face). Regardless of methods, the most important element of the video recording is audio quality. The language, the way it is delivered, the inflection are key to consultation analysis and feedback. As a GP Trainer, it is a real problem when it becomes a struggle to hear the conversation clearly and completely. This is why my interest was piqued by the Memory MiC by Sennheiser.
It is important to add that there are confidentiality concerns (currently) with the use of smartphones and recording consultations although secure servers are available (at a cost). For the purposes of testing, I used the Memory Mic in the context of recording the feedback between myself and a trainee doctor which was then used to for me to be assessed on my own teaching skills. I was interested in the proof of concept that the audio quality is much higher therefore teaching and feedback is better.
We should bear in mind that the logistics of recording a tutorial or consultation is confounded by the following:
1. The GP Trainer or trainee doctor is not an audio-visual professional. The setup will simply be a camcorder or smartphone on a tripod.
2. The consulting room will certainly not be acoustically inert. It will not have carpet (hard floors are a necessary infection control requirement) and the walls will be plain and bare.
3. The pace of the conversation will vary & there may be mumbling or quiet speech – these are real people not actors.
The ideal solution is a hard wired Lavalier microphone so speech is picked up close to the subject, however the camera is likely to be 2 to 3 m away and these can also be expensive.
Alternatively a wireless microphone might be ideal, I have trialled Bluetooth options but on playback we experienced lip-sync issues. I also tried plug-in (lightning on iOS) microphones which were better but still struggled with the acoustic signature of the room. Now you can see why a reasonably priced Sennheiser product, that worked with my mobile devices was of interest.
With the Memory Mic, I recorded a tutorial which was actually used in my own assessment to be re-accredited as a GP Trainer. The comments from my Professor of General Practice can be summed up by the highly intellectual comment ‘Wow’ when I hit play. The audio was crisp, there was little echo, and the tutorial was easy to follow even with a trainee doctor who spoke quickly & sometimes at a tangent.
From a developmental perspective, the software will need some development. It is still a little bit buggy and the iOS version did freeze a couple of times. This is understandable while it is still new product and this was more apparent with the video. The audio worked like a dream. My other minor concern for the future is interaction with other apps. I am meeting with one of the market leaders in on-line teaching video storage soon in the hope their system will allow the upload of videos taken with the app.
To summarise, this is a very exciting product indeed which will surely have a future in General Practice training and education in general. Watch this space…