by Dava Stewart
Amid the myriad decisions associated with adopting and implementing an electronic health records (EHR) system, there is the option to use voice recognition technology. If the whole idea of a computer that recognizes your voice seems like science fiction, consider the fact that cell phones have been using it for several years now. If your email software creates a text version of your messages, it does so using voice recognition software. The technology is common, and steadily getting better. An EHR system that integrates voice recognition technology can save busy practitioners time — one of the most valuable commodities for any DC.
Voice recognition software can also contribute to improved patient outcomes, which is the ultimate goal of using EHRs. This technology makes it much easier to create thorough visit notes. Checking off boxes on forms only tells part of the story for any given patient, and more information leads to clearer understanding of symptoms, treatments, and progress for any given condition.
Since it takes far less time to speak observations than to handwrite or type them, notes can often be dictated immediately. Practitioners may be able to include more details, allowing for a more thorough report of the patient visit. When voice recognition technology is combined with the templates included in EHRs, the end result is a patient visit record that encompasses both standardized forms and detailed practitioner observations.
There are two ways to integrate this technology with an EHR: the software may be a part of the EHR system, or it may be a standalone product. As time goes on, more practitioners are finding that voice recognition saves time and money, and that it improves workflow as well as patient outcomes.
The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) notes that voice recognition technology “serves as a productivity tool to help lower costs and increase productivity, especially when compared to the manual labor required by traditional dictation and transcription.”
Manufacturers and vendors of EHR systems are increasingly including voice recognition technology as a part of their overall system. In that case, practitioners can simply implement voice recognition as the transition to the new EHR system happens. However, for those who have purchased an EHR system that does not include the technology, or in instances where it is not included as part of the EHR system, voice recognition software that will integrate with existing systems is available.
In the case of standalone voice recognition programs, there are a couple of important things to consider:
- Check, double-check, and ask an expert if it will integrate with your existing hardware before purchasing. Physicians Practice cites many reason why this is important, including the amount of RAM required, the type of processor, the sound card, and the operating system. Even new hardware may not be technically appropriate for all voice recognition programs.
- Understand the difference between Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Clinical Language Processing (CLP). “Siri” is by far the most well-known NLP product, but even Siri would probably not understand clinical notes. Voice recognition software for use in a chiropractic setting needs a specialized vocabulary.
If voice recognition technology can improve workflow, save time and money, and improve patient outcomes, it is worth investigating for the majority of DCs. The fact that they may also help show meaningful use and lower the rate at which claims are rejected by insurance companies only makes them that much more attractive.