What Is Speech Recognition, and Why Is It Important in Healthcare?
First of all, what exactly is speech recognition technology? Speech recognition (also called voice recognition) programs can identify words that a person is speaking. The software program then can either complete a task or automatically translate the speech into another format (like the written word). So, if you’ve ever dictated something to your phone or your vehicle (such as instructing it to “Call Mom”), then you’ve used a form of speech recognition technology. Healthcare providers often use speech recognition to generate written records.
Speech recognition isn’t a new technology; it’s been used for many years. However, it has recently gotten easier to use, more affordable, and more precise. Thanks to these improvements, it is now a more reliable tool to use in the healthcare field.
Speech recognition is important in the medical field because it has the potential to transform the way healthcare providers operate in their day-to-day.
What Are the Impacts and Benefits of Speech Recognition Technology in Healthcare?
There are a few significant impacts that speech recognition can have in healthcare professions. Here are the most significant impacts and benefits:
Time Savings and Better Productivity—Medical professionals normally have to spend a large percentage of their day doing paperwork. That’s where voice recognition technologies come in. It takes time to write or type out notes physically, but it’s quicker to speak them aloud. All they have to do is talk into a voice recorder or smartphone, and the device will translate their speech into the written word.
Since many doctors struggle to find time for their record keeping duties, this can be very helpful. Instead of taking time after-hours or stealing face-to-face time from patients, doctors can quickly record their voice and instantly have diagnoses, treatment records, and other important notes written down thanks to voice recognition software.
Better Quality of Care—Saving time on paperwork allows medical practitioners to spend more time attending to their patients, which improves overall patient care. Instead of spending their face-to-face time going through papers and writing down notes, voice technologies can allow physicians to truly be present with their patients.
When a physician is able to listen closely and connect one-on-one with their patient, then they can give them more satisfactory and more personal care. This can have lots of benefits: better health for patients, higher job satisfaction for the medical care providers, and even higher levels of success for the hospital or clinic.
Are There Any Drawbacks of Medical Speech Recognition?
Dictating notes may not be possible in every setting—Since it is a HIPAA violation for others to overhear personal medical information, it is necessary for dictation to be done in a private setting, which is not easy for some doctors to achieve. Security is paramount when it comes to medical speech recognition.
In addition, voice recognition software doesn’t work very well when there is ambient noise. In hospital settings, it can be difficult to create a good recording because of the noise of other patients, medical assistants, and machines in the background.
Time, cost, and slight learning curve—There’s a cost to setting up voice recognition systems, such as with any new technology. The cost is more than just monetary: it takes time to set up new technology and it takes time for doctors to learn how to use it to its best advantage. Any time workflow changes, it can take some getting used to. However, startup costs and initial challenges are not long-lasting. Most of the time, a good speech recognition program, though costly upfront, will pay for itself over time through time savings and other benefits.
You have to choose the right technology—Unfortunately, not all speech recognition programs produce good quality results. Even though the software and other technology are significantly better than it used to be, it still makes errors sometimes. There are also different levels of quality when it comes to equipment (voice recorders/smartphones/tablets) and software programs. Double-checking or editing the resulting notes is always necessary since the speech recognition program might misinterpret words and phrases, especially when users have different accents and speech patterns.
It must be secure—Not only do doctors have to be careful where they record their notes, but they also have to make sure that the information is transmitted and stored in a secure, HIPAA-compliant way.
Why Aren’t All Doctors Using Speech Recognition?
A recent study by Reaction Data sheds some light when it comes to speech recognition used in EHRs:
- 62% of the healthcare providers surveyed said that they are currently using speech recognition technologies for their records
- 4% of the healthcare providers stated that they’re currently implementing medical speech recognition in EHRs
- 11% of the providers in the survey say they plan to adopt speech recognition EHR technology in the next two years
- And, nearly a quarter (23%) of the providers in the survey stated that they don’t have any plans to adopt speech recognition in their electronic health record.
While most are using or planning to use voice recognition, there are still many healthcare providers who aren’t taking advantage of this technology. Among the providers who don’t plan to implement speech recognition technology in healthcare, there were several reasons stated:
- Budgetary concerns
- Personal preference for typing
- Concerns about accuracy
- Difficulty integrating the system
While these concerns are valid, the results show that those who never plan to implement speech recognition are in the minority. And, there are many people working to create better technologies and better processes that alleviate any or all of these concerns. We believe that there are many benefits of speech recognition technology in healthcare and hope to see it benefiting more doctors (and more patients) in the near future.