Artificial intelligence is rapidly changing our digital lives, including in healthcare. For doctors, one of the most exciting developments is AI-enabled medical dictation.

AI medical dictation uses artificial intelligence (AI) technology to transcribe providers’ spoken medical notes into text format. With advances in speech recognition technology and Natural Language Processing, dictating healthcare documentation has become much easier.

Benefits of AI medical dictation

If you’ve used speech-to-text medical dictation software since 2015, you’ve used AI medical dictation. AI essentially introduces more advanced algorithms to make automated dictation faster and more accurate than it was before. 

Dictating clinical notes using speech-to-text offers several benefits compared to typing notes or using a medical scribe or transcriptionist: 

  1. Speed – Speaking medical notes is much faster than typing them. Furthermore, speech-to-text medical dictation happens in real time, allowing physicians to complete notes quickly and close charts sooner.
  2. Accuracy – Providers typically review their dictation immediately after speaking it, allowing them to check accuracy while the visit details remain fresh. Earlier models, like off-site medical transcription services, required physician review later in the day or the following day, which created more room for error.
  3. Cost Savings – Speech-to-text software is much cheaper than hiring a staff scribe or a medical transcription service.

How AI changed medical transcription

It can be helpful to think of AI medical dictation as the latest stage of evolution in healthcare transcription. Notice that each era was enabled by new technology.

  • Pre-Computer Era – If a doctor wanted to dictate medical notes in the 1800s, they needed a medical transcriptionist in the room to take notes on paper.
  • Early Dictation Machines – Tape recorders made asynchronous transcription possible in the mid-1900s.
  • Word Processors – Electric typewriters enabled medical transcriptionists to work more efficiently, but they still manually typed physicians’ dictations.
  • Voice Recognition Technology – By the 1990s, some physicians used rudimentary voice recognition software to automate transcription. Nuanced released Dragon Medical 1.0 in 2000.
  • Electronic Health Records – With the widespread adoption of EHRs beginning in the mid-2000s, providers could dictate directly into the patient’s electronic record. 
  • AI-Powered Transcription – In the 2010s, advances in speech recognition and natural language processing algorithms dramatically improved computers’ ability to automate medical transcription. 

Voice recognition technology has been around since the 1990s. But in these early days, Dragon Medical was a niche software that required substantial manual training to reach a functional level of accuracy. Today, thanks to AI, countless medical speech-to-text solutions are incredibly accurate and understand medical terminology out of the box.

The application of AI technology to medical dictation essentially removed the need for human transcription because speech-to-text software became highly accurate. 

The next evolution of medical transcription: Generative AI

Compared to typing and early voice recognition software, AI technology dramatically improved the speed and accuracy of medical dictation. However, providers using automated speech-to-text software still need to dictate their observations, diagnoses, and treatment plans after each patient visit.

New solutions using generative AI technologies like ChatGPT are eliminating the need for medical dictation altogether. Companies like Nuance, Mobius MD, and Augmedix have launched AI medical scribes that write doctors’ EHR notes for them. This new category of documentation solutions – called “Ambient Clinical Intelligence” – listens to a patient-provider conversation, extrapolates relevant details, and generates an accurate, structured clinical note.

Generative AI might be the last phase in the evolution of medical transcription, essentially removing the need to dictate in the first place. What’s left will be doctor visits untethered from the EHR, in which the patient’s health and treatment plan is the only thing to focus on.

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