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Speech Recognition Reporting Solutions for Healthcare: Pain or Gain?

top 10 speech recognition

My colleagues and I are asked to list the importance and benefits of speech recognition in healthcare on a regular basis.  In response, we usually rattle off a number of benefits that we know to be true and a few that are subjective in nature.  What really surprises me is that the list has not changed much  since I became an early adopter of the technology as a Pathology Assistant back in the late 1980s.  Still, although the list has not changed, the technology has steadily improved and continues to perform better with each new software revision, each new computer processor, and each new microphone or related hardware option hitting the market.  This only makes for a stronger and more compelling list of reasons to use speech recognition as a reporting tool in healthcare. 

So without any further ado, I present to you my top 10 countdown of reasons why you should be using front-end speech recognition for reporting.  Disclaimer: This list is derived from more than 25 years of conversations with caregivers, administrators, and vendors in the healthcare space.

Number 10:  You have no choiceno choice speech recognition

Yes, this really happens!  In fact, it’s how I started.  I knew very little about the technology at first, but I was told to make it work and I did.  Like a few before me and many after, I then came to realize the truth of many of the items that follow on this list.

Number 9:  It’s really cool!

Okay, confession—this was me too!  And it still amazes me to this day that, although it is a well-established technology, there are still “oohs and aahs” when someone witnesses speech recognition in the healthcare context for the first time.  Why?  Because speech recognition gets it right 98+% of the time—especially the big, hard to pronounce medical words.

Number 8:  It can help to overcome difficulty or disability in interacting with the computer

This can range from a physical disability to a fear of using computers and technology.  Nowadays, we are being asked to interact with our computers more and more.  The use of your voice to not only dictate, but to turn keystrokes into every day phrases for navigational commands or text shortcuts is a more natural way of getting the job done rather than the multistep clicking and key pressing it would take otherwise.

Number 7:  It’s a better input device

Sometimes, hands-free interaction with the computer and dictation are needed.  For those of us who are still three-fingered typists, it works much better than a keyboard in allowing us to rapidly create text.

Number 6:  Speech recognition is always readyspeech recognition no vacations

Speech Recognition is available nearly 24/7 365 days a year!  To this day, I can hear my pathology chairman saying to me, “Speech recognition doesn’t eat lunch, doesn’t take breaks, doesn’t need vacations, and never sleeps.”  Simply put, it allows you to work when you need to.

Number 5: It provides for quality reporting and improved patient care

Combined with templates and structured or synoptic presentations, speech recognition can help to create a higher quality report!  The report itself will have more consistency and fewer spelling errors or omissions.  Better diagnostic data equals better patient care.

Number 4:  It results in reporting efficiency

Because of its real-time nature and immediate feedback, the proofreading, corrections, and edits occur at the time of dictation.  As a result, there is no need to go back.  Visual feedback from the report is provided when the case is still fresh in our minds and information is readily in front of us.  This greatly improves workflow and turnaround time.  Faster reporting equals better patient care.

Number 3:  Improved patient care

Okay, I know I have stated this as an outcome in numbers 4 and 5, but better patient care is so important that it needs to be called out as a separate reason to use speech recognition in healthcare reporting.  More accurate, comprehensive, and better formatted reports that can reach the patient care team more quickly can lead to improved patient outcomes.

Number 2:  Cost benefit or return on investment (ROI)

I’m not going to present any formulas or long dissertations, but speech recognition when implemented properly shows a compelling return on investment as a tool for reporting.  This ROI is most definable and achieved in healthcare specialties that have been producing typed reports and notes over time and rely heavily on transcription.  These cost savings can be directly attributed to cost of transcription and turn around time/length of stay to name a few.  There is significant data available on this subject, but that is a topic for a future blog.

Number 1:  The need for more transcription

You might ask, with improved patient care for lower cost and better efficiency, why is this item number one?  Does it really belong here in terms of the benefits of speech recognition technology?  Probably not, but what I have seen and heard most over the past 25 years that drives us to adopt this type of solution the fastest is the “pain” of not being able to keep up with the expected reporting needs of the medical community and the patients it serves.  Increased reporting volume—“The more we know the more we have to report”—coupled with recurring problems when it comes to hiring and keeping qualified transcriptionists has always been a concern.

Good place for an analogy?  Sure, why not.  Think about how many of us have had a problem with a tooth but just changed the side we chew on or what we eat to accommodate it.  We become less efficient at eating and might even spend money and time buying softer or different food.  But time goes on and we learn to cope, sometimes for weeks or even years.  And then there is pain!  Suddenly, the decision to take care of the tooth that we put off for weeks or years becomes our new priority.  Pain motivates!  You just have to wonder: Did we gain anything by waiting?

So there you have it...my top 10 list of what motivates healthcare professionals to adopt speech recognition as a reporting solution.  What do you think?