This article covers everything you need to know about medical speech recognition software. We’ll tell you what it is, how it works, and what to look for when choosing software.
What is speech recognition software?
Speech recognition software is any computer application that translates your speech into text. That’s why speech recognition is often called “automatic speech recognition (ASR)” or “speech-to-text.” You speak, and software on your smartphone or computer instantly converts your words to text.
In medicine, speech recognition software is a modern alternative to using a human scribe or transcriptionist to help with documentation. In the past, you might have hired a scribe to sit in on patient visits and take notes. Or maybe you sent dictations off-site to a medical stenographer who transcribed them.
Today, many doctors skip the scribe or transcriptionist, and simply speak their dictations into a software application linked to the electronic health record (EHR). Their words appear instantly on the screen where they can check them for errors before saving the note.
How does speech recognition work?
The simplest explanation of speech recognition is that software follows four major steps to convert speech into text:
- An analog-to-digital converter converts sounds waves from your voice into digital data a computer can understand.
- That data is broken down into smaller sound bites that are matched to phonemes in the given language.
- The software analyzes the string of phonemes from your dictation and matches them with its database of known words, phrases, and sentences.
- The computer infers what you said and uses that information to produce text or perform a command.
Medical speech recognition software uses this same process, but it also requires a database of language specific to medicine. For example, if you say “Atorvastatin” it’s important that the software you’re using recognizes that as a word to look for when matching your speech up with its database.
Benefits of medical speech recognition software
Many doctors are using speech recognition software for clinical notes because it reduces the need to type. Typing is slow – about 30 words per minute (WPM) for most physicians – and clinicians are spending more time than ever on charting and paperwork.
Dictating using medical speech recognition software is much faster than typing and the results are similarly accurate. Speech recognition software can easily transcribe over 150 WPM, which happens to be the average conversation rate for English speakers in the United States.
In short, dictation is faster than typing and doctors are short on time.
But using medical speech recognition software has other benefits. Some providers say it improves the quality of their clinical notes and studies have shown benefits for clinicians’ satisfaction. By dictating in the presence of your patients, medical speech-to-text can also be used as an effective patient engagement strategy.
Considerations when choosing a medical speech recognition software
If you’re considering using speech-to-text for clinical documentation, you probably noticed how many different software options exist.
What features should you look for in medical speech recognition software?
First, you want software that’s easy and intuitive to start using,
It’s true that any change to your documentation workflow is going to require an upfront investment of time and energy. But there are plenty of medical dictation solutions with great user interfaces that will feel familiar and intuitive right from the start.
Look for software that fits your needs but doesn’t have a lot of extra functions or options. If the company that makes the application recommends you attend a training session to get started, consider other options.
Designed for doctors
It might feel tempting to use a free speech recognition software that isn’t specifically for medicine, but we don’t advise it. Medical software has two big benefits: security and functionality.
Security is paramount. Any software that handles protected health information needs to be HIPAA compliant, so this should be your litmus test for bringing any app into your practice.
Also, look for speech-to-text options designed by doctors for doctors. Not only will these software understand medical terminology out-of-the-box, but they are also more likely to integrate seamlessly with your EHR. Ideally, your speech recognition software will function anywhere you type: in your EHR, when composing a document, and in any web interface.
Works on all of your computers
Many physicians use a PC at work and a Mac at home. Unfortunately, many medical dictation apps don’t work on Macs. If you ever finish clinical notes at home – most family physicians do – you’ll need speech recognition software that works on all your computers.
Look for medical speech-to-text software that works on Mac and PC and can be used on unlimited devices. If you move between work stations throughout the day, or between hospitals throughout the week, you want your medical dictation workflow – including your known settings, voice commands, and functionality – to travel with you.
Today, most doctors will want medical speech-to-text software that works on their smartphone or tablet in addition to their computer. This gives your clinical documentation workflow more flexibility and allows you to dictate anywhere.
For example, what if you’re away from the computer but have a moment to catch up on clinical notes? Choose software that includes a “memos” feature. This lets you record your dictation on your smartphone and easily save it to the patient chart when you’re back at the computer.
Mobile, cloud-based dictation also means you can use your smartphone as a microphone for instant medical dictation on any computer. That’s right – your most powerful speech-recognition microphone is already in your pocket. Dictaphones are a thing of the past.
Any new technology will raise questions: How do I quickly set up my software on a new computer? What are the important voice commands to make my dictation process more efficient?
You’ll want a speech recognition technology with great support options. Before choosing a software, make sure to read customer reviews and talk to your colleagues about their experience with the software.