How Medical Speech Recognition Works

Medical speech recognition software enables healthcare practitioners to explain a patient’s medical records or clinical documentation verbally, and it is automatically transcribed directly into the electronic health record (EHR) system.

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What is medical speech recognition?

What is medical speech recognition?

Medical speech recognition software allows healthcare practitioners to verbally explain a patient’s medical records or clinical documentation, and it is automatically transcribed directly into the electronic health record (EHR) system. In recent years, there has been a massive shift to introduce new forms of technology, including EHR, into healthcare practices. Whilst this has led to positive changes, particularly in relation to improved efficiency, the implementation of other features designed to accompany advanced software is also necessary. Medical speech recognition enables a more seamless shift to eHealth, allowing practitioners to complete required tasks on the go and achieve good usability of the EHR software. In a survey conducted by Reaction Data, it was reported that in 2018, 62% of doctors were using medical speech recognition with their EHR. The growth of this feature is indicative of the extensive benefits it has for practitioners, allowing them to streamline their documentation process and save significant amounts of time. 

How is speech recognition used in healthcare?

There are other methods of writing and producing clinical notes that were traditionally used before the introduction of speech recognition software. Practitioners could hire a scribe who would sit in on their sessions and transcribe notes, or they would send dictations to an external medical stenographer. Whilst these processes have the same result, neither are as effective as medical dictation software.

As you probably already know, maintaining good clinical documentation is an integral aspect of working as a healthcare practitioner. Regardless of the type of interaction you have with a patient, it is necessary that these are recorded accurately and promptly. However, keeping up with all of this documentation can be burdensome, and even the most experienced practitioners occasionally, and understandably, make mistakes. With medical voice recognition, practitioners can simply speak, and the software translates their voice into text in the EHR. After completing their note, practitioners can check for errors in the typed version before saving it into the system. Medical speech recognition provides a solution that facilitates faster and more effective clinical documentation, helping improve the efficiency of healthcare practices.

How is speech recognition used in healthcare?
Understanding the working and mechanism of medical speech recognition

Understanding the working and mechanism of medical speech recognition

Medical speech recognition is extremely intuitive for healthcare practitioners to use, but you might be wondering how exactly it works. Although each type of software may be slightly different depending on what it has been programmed to do, medical speech recognition generally follows these four steps:

  1. Initially, an analog-to-digital converter translates analog waves that are produced by speech into data that computers are able to understand.
  2. The data is broken down into smaller sound bites that match phonemes in the given language.
  3. The software analyzes and compares these phonemes with known words, phrases and sentences.
  4. After this comparison has been made, the software makes an inference from the speech and translates it into text. 

For a healthcare practice using this software, the words, phrases, and sentences within the database are specific to the medical industry. The first few times a practitioner uses the system, they will most likely have to check for errors within the produced note and fix any mistakes. The algorithm is designed to adjust to these mistakes, meaning that as time goes on, the final result will have fewer errors.

As we mentioned previously, all healthcare practitioners are required to maintain clinical documentation and this process can take quite a bit of time. Sessions with patients need to be recorded in progress notes, and any updates or modifications to a treatment process need to be uploaded into the EHR as soon as possible. Whilst most doctors manage to keep up with documentation, it usually takes up so much time that they end up not being able to see and treat as many patients. Using medical speech recognition software will cut down this time significantly, all whilst ensuring that the documentation remains accurate. 

There are two main types of speech recognition software that are currently being used in healthcare practices. The first utilizes dictation tools that transcribe what the practitioner verbalizes word-for-word. Dictation software requires the doctor to use the exact language that they want their notes to contain. The second is AI scribes, which apply natural language processing (NLP) to the word-for-word transcription. NLP identifies the relevant medical language and removes filler words and even small talk. AI scribes allow practitioners to speak more freely into their voice recognition software, as the algorithm does a lot of the formatting and editing for them.

Factors to consider while adopting a medical speech recognition software

There has been a recent surge in the development of different speech recognition software and we understand that selecting the right one for your practice can seem daunting. To help you with this process, we have collated some of the main things you want to keep in mind when making your selection:

  • Installation: The implementation process of speech software into your practice should be intuitive and easy. Whilst any new changes will require time and effort, the best systems are easy to install, and require no previous knowledge.
  • Mobile: The number of people who use a mobile device in almost every aspect of their lives is increasing, and the healthcare industry must adjust to this change. As such, the speech recognition software that you choose should work on your smartphone and/or tablet. This will allow practitioners to work from anywhere, enabling greater flexibility and remote working.
  • Medical speech recognition software: There is a lot of different speech recognition software that have been developed, and it may be tempting to simply utilize a free dictation app. However, there are a few things you should take into consideration before doing this. Firstly, the software you use needs to be HIPAA-compliant; the information you are recording is confidential and needs to be processed securely. Secondly, medical speech recognition software will be integrated with language specific to your field, meaning that its functionality is significantly greater. 

Final thoughts

The development of medical speech recognition software has allowed healthcare practitioners to utilize their EHR systems to a much greater extent. Furthermore, it allows doctors to complete their notes on the go, improving efficiency whilst still ensuring the notes are accurate. The actual software itself is fairly sophisticated, with an algorithm specifically designed to produce medical notes. However, for practitioners, it is extremely intuitive and easy to use, allowing you to become an expert regardless of what prior technological skills you have!

Further Reading:

Factors to consider while adopting a medical speech recognition software

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