Speech recognition technology has been around for some time now and it is used in many healthcare settings to transcribe physician notes. With the arrival of speech recognition technology there was the fear that medical transcription services would no longer be relevant. However, this is not completely true. For one thing, medical transcription providers now offer EHR-integrated medical transcription that many physicians utilize. These are physicians who prefer the conventional dictation-transcription method so that the transcription provider takes care of the documentation part. Another thing to remember is that speech recognition technology is not entirely fool proof, so it requires some amount of human intervention.
Let us look at the advantages and disadvantages of speech recognition technology and how medical transcription still has a role to play.
With speech recognition software, physicians can speak into a recording device. The software converts the recordings into text format which is then edited and reviewed. The advantages of speech recognition software are:
- Suitable for narratives: With EHR, physicians are expected to include more information about the patient and are forced to spend most of the time drafting medical reports. But with speech recognition, physicians can dictate the health conditions directly with basic questions lists. In case of any serious or complicated medical history, a lot of information can get lost while filling up EHR whereas with speech recognition all vital information can be recorded and transcribed later.
- Ensures effective patient encounter: Speech recognition allows doctors to dictate to the recording devices instead of documenting medical records at the time of consultation. It lets the physicians listen patiently to what the patient wants to say and give them complete attention. This helps increase patient satisfaction as the physicians and patients can speak directly about the health condition without any interference.
- Enables consistent and thorough process: With EHR system physician are forced to use templates and many mouse clicks and it involves training to make the physicians work in a different way. This can affect the productivity of the physicians. Speech recognition integrated into the EHR helps avoid these issues.
Even though speech recognition software has many benefits and helps physicians with dictation and documentation of medical records, it also has some short comings.
- Problems with formatting: Use of proper punctuation, paragraph breaks and other formatting are essential for medical records and speech recognition software does not provide that. Physicians have to verbally speak the commands for every punctuation. If extra punctuations are inserted, then those extra commands can easily throw off the entire thought process, making the benefit of speaking aloud ineffective.
- Problems with understanding deep accents: Speech recognition software claims to understand accents but it cannot understand deep accents. The software is trained to recognize accented speech but the process of correcting the software and attuning it to specific accents can take many hours which may not be a viable option for physicians.
- Poor accuracy: A study published in JAMA states that they found errors in notes prepared with speech recognition software from 144 physicians, with an error rate of 7.4 percent. The errors involved clinical information which can risk the health of the patients. These errors also lead to reimbursement issues, delay in payouts etc. Errors are caused by the software when speakers have a thick accent, when they speak quickly, or in a low voice, and when there are background noises.
Due to above mentioned shortcomings of speech recognition software, medical transcription still plays a crucial role in healthcare industry. The following are some the advantages of medical transcriptions that show how it helps in efficient documentation of medical records and how it minimizes the burden on physicians.
- Accuracy: Medical transcription ensures accuracy in medical records and no machine can outsmart human proofreading and editing. The JAMA study also saw a decline in errors when the documentation was reviewed by a transcriptionist. With better accuracy comes lesser malpractice risk and better delivery of patient care.
- Cost-effective: One of the main advantages is that medical transcription is less expensive because highly vetted and trained transcriptionists who will reliably deliver accurate, timely results every time. It also reduces maintenance cost, training cost, and the cost of buying transcription equipment.
- HIPAA-compliant: Reputable medical transcription providers understand the crucial importance of data security and requires all employees and business associates to complete comprehensive training on HIPAA and security best practices.
- Saves time: Professional transcriptionists assure quicker transcription with maximum accuracy. Although the software claims to be quicker, it takes time to format and edit the medical records. Moreover, in the medical field many changes occur rapidly and transcriptionists are trained to get accustomed to the rapid changing conditions.
A blended approach of speech recognition software and medical transcription service will help in improving the efficiency and productivity of physicians. It helps in documenting progress notes, patient histories, physical exam results, and discharge summaries accurately.