Speech Recognition in Healthcare
Speech recognition programs, also called voice recognition, can identify spoken words. The software program then either completes a task or translates the spoken word into text. If you have 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 medical documentation.
Speech recognition isn’t a new technology; it has been used for many years. However, it is now easier to use, more affordable and more precise. Thanks to these improvements, speech recognition is now a more reliable tool to use in the healthcare field with the potential to transform the way healthcare providers perform daily tasks.
Impacts and Benefits of Speech Recognition in Healthcare
Speech recognition technology has significant impacts in the healthcare profession. The most significant impacts and benefits are:
Time Savings and Better Productivity—Medical professionals normally spend a large percentage of their day doing paperwork. That’s where voice recognition technologies can have an impact. It takes time to write or type out notes, but it is quicker to speak them aloud. All they have to do is talk into a recording device and the speech recognition technology will translate the spoken word to written word.
Since many clinicians struggle to find time to complete their documentation, this can be very helpful. Instead of taking time after-hours or reducing face-to-face time with patients, clinicians can quickly record their voice and instantly have diagnoses, treatment records, and other important notes documented thanks to the voice recognition solution.
Better Quality of Care—Saving time on paperwork allows medical practitioners to spend more time treating their patients, which improves overall patient care. Instead of spending time sorting through a medical chart or reviewing information on the computer, voice technologies can allow clinicians to truly be present with their patients.
When a clinician is able to listen closely and connect one-on-one with their patient, then they can give a higher, more personal quality of care. As a result, patients have better health, medical care providers have higher satisfaction with their job, and hospitals and clinics can experience higher levels of success.
Drawbacks of Medical Speech Recognition
Dictating in high-traffic areas can be difficult for a variety of reasons. HIPAA requirements make it necessary to ensure that personal medical information is not overheard by others. In addition, while most speech recognition solutions are able to filter out noise, the possibility of background conversation or the sounds of medical equipment impeding recognition still exists.
Implementing a new voice recognition solution comes at a price, and that cost is not solely monetary. Time is required to set up the new technology and for clinicians to learn how to use the product to its full potential. However, startup costs and initial challenges are not long-lasting. A good speech recognition program will pay for itself in a short amount of time through time-savings, increased efficiency, decreased physician queries, improved patient care and increased job satisfaction.
While speech recognition technology is significantly better than it used to be, not all speech recognition solutions are created equal. Solutions that do not utilize advanced technologies such as machine learning and artificial intelligence produce lower quality recognition results requiring clinicians to spend significant time reviewing and editing the recognized text. Selecting lower quality equipment (microphones/foot pedals/headsets) can also negatively impact the quality of recognition.
When researching speech recognition solutions, be sure that the information is transmitted and stored in a secure, HIPAA-compliant manner.
Speech Recognition Adoption in Healthcare
A recent study by Reaction Data provides some insight into the use of speech recognition by clinicians:
- 62% of healthcare providers surveyed said they are currently using speech recognition technologies for their records
- 4% of healthcare providers stated that they are currently implementing medical speech recognition in EHRs
- 11% of clinicians in the survey say they plan to adopt speech recognition EHR technology in the next two years
- 23%, nearly a quarter, of the clinicians in the survey stated they don’t have any plans to adopt speech recognition in their electronic health record
While most clinicians are using or planning to use voice recognition, there are still many healthcare providers who aren’t taking advantage of the technology. Among the providers who do not plan to implement speech recognition, the most common reasons were:
- 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. Software providers are working to create better technologies and better processes to alleviate these concerns.