Advantages and Disadvantages of Using Speech Recognition Software for Medical Transcription

One of the greatest headaches in medical practice is documentation. Accurate and timely documentation is critical to proper patient care, accurate billing and for legal purposes. Audio recordings of history and physical reports, clinic notes, consultation reports, procedures, ER reports, follow up notes and health reports have to be converted to clear and reliable transcripts. Medical data quality and record integrity are even more important now that health information exchanges are operational.

One of the latest applications aimed at making medical transcription more efficient is. speech recognition software which recognizes the human voice and converts it into digital format within fraction of seconds. Take Apple’s OS X Maverick and Dragon NaturallySpeaking by Nuance Communications. Both these back-end speech recognition technologies are designed to automatically prepare an initial draft of a report even as it is dictated.

A Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) report says that the adoption rate of speech recognition software has risen from 21% in 2009 to 47% in 2013. However, as with any type of application, their pros and cons are being widely debated.

Many clinicians point out that voice recognition software can greatly improve work flow. When integrated to an office environment, it allows automatic queuing of dictations from several authors to predefined assistants, speech recognition, selective routing of dictation files, and much more. Dictation software has also helped decrease average report turnaround time, thereby promoting timely medical decision making. Prompt and accurate information can save human lives and reduce patient care days as well. Some healthcare facilities are reporting significant financial savings with automatic medical transcription software.

Intelligent speech recognition software turns clinician dictations into formatted draft documents. A study published in the American Journal of Radiology reports that the turnaround time for radiology transcription increased many fold with the use of this software.

However, there’s the other side of the picture. The tools make mistakes in data and are even more prone to errors when used in noisy places. Inability to determine disorganized dictation, poor grammar, and missing or overused punctuation are some issues that physicians are reporting when using speech recognition technology. Also, the software is not good at recognizing voices with heavy accents. Human intervention is needed to train and make the software identify the voice pattern and dictation style of the end user. In short, with speech recognition software, the quality of the reports is a major challenge.

Speech recognition technology is also expensive to set up. The healthcare practice will have to consider the initial infrastructure requirements, future technology upgrades, and maintenance costs before making the investment decision.

The bottom line is that voice recognition software requires human intervention to guarantee the accuracy of outcome. However, it would be impractical and time-consuming for physicians to proofread and check their own transcripts. The services of a medical transcription company are quite indispensable even with the use of speech recognition technology. The medical transcriptionists can review and edit the reports generated by these applications and correct the errors that come up when the doctor dictates. It’s important to note that established companies providing conventional medical transcription services, every transcript goes through a three-level quality check to ensure top accuracy.

According to the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), computerized speech recognition systems are not the final solution for quality clinical documentation. They can be used as a tool to improve the productivity of transcriptionists or the dictator and to reduce the delay and expenses of conventional medical transcription services. Healthcare providers should focus on implementing best practices that integrate the benefits of both speech recognition software and transcription services.

To know more about Speech Recognition we have written a new blog on November 2, 2017 “Speech Recognition for Medical Transcription – Benefits and Challenges